I preface this by saying I’m referring mainly to people online who try to “mentor” or “sway” people after posting about something they enjoy or find helpful. I’m not referring to professional advice from managers or helpful suggestions from loved ones when it’s consensual. I’m referring to those who consistently override the preferences or needs of others to make their own opinions facts.
Unsolicited advice tends to come from good intentions – people want to help those they care about (or share advice they personally found helpful for them). However, it’s not helpful to give people advice they didn’t ask for, particularly if it’s in an area where they are already happy or at peace. Even a skilled therapist or counselor is careful not to go into giving advice territory with their clients.
Here are some key reasons why it’s best not to tell people what to do (Even when you mean well):
#1 It overlooks all the growth and knowledge the person has already gained
Think of the last time someone told you what to do in regards to your life – maybe they meant well, but you probably felt insulted because they assumed a) you didn’t know what you were doing and b) you didn’t already think of that before. Every person has been on a journey – we all have strengths and weaknesses yet we’ve been able to overcome so much. Assuming that someone doesn’t know enough to do something practical or obvious can feel really insulting.
#2 You’re assuming you know more about their life than they do
This goes along with the first point, but people who give advice that wasn’t asked for often see themselves as more capable or intelligent than those they’re giving advice to. Some people may not actually think this, but it gives the impression you see yourself as more enlightened than the person you’re bestowing your advice to.
#3 You shouldn’t give people things they didn’t ask for
“But they were venting!” Okay, I get it. It’s natural for people to want to problem solve when someone they care about is venting or complaining about something. The thing is, sometimes someone wants to relate what they’ve experienced or blow off a little stream. Sometimes it’s not that deep. They just want someone to listen and empathize. If you go beyond that and start trying to solve their “problems”, it can seem insensitive. Usually, people solve their own problems after a good chat session with a friend or by brainstorming different solutions. Trust me when I say that you will help someone more by listening to them than offering advice. Even if what you’re saying is true for your life, it may not be for theirs and they’re probably not going to listen to it.
#4 If you give unsolicited advice a lot, you may be manipulative
Sometimes codependent people give others advice in hopes of “fixing” them or getting them to do things they want them to do. They have a need to control others so that they feel useful, but this isn’t healthy. It’s intruding on someone else’s ability to solve their own problems. You’re essentially “victimizing” someone when you suggest that they can’t figure things out on their own without your help. Not all advice givers are codependents, but all codependents will use this tactic when they want to reel someone in and control their life.
#5 Unsolicited advice is a boundary violation
How is it a boundary violation? Well, you’re telling someone that they don’t have the ability to make their own decisions or have different opinions from you. It’s always best to ask if they want help before giving advice. If they say “no I’ve got this” then you need to respect that. When someone tells you about something stressful or problematic, it isn’t your job to solve their problem for them. You can offer a listening ear and sympathize with how they feel. Usually that’s all a person needs to feel better and carry on.
#6 There are many ways to lead a happy life
Say your friend is a dreamy type who loves creating art and moving to different places – try as you may, you can’t convince her to settle on a career and take life more seriously, but she’s happy. I find sometimes people get offended when someone they know leads a different lifestyle from them. Just because someone does something differently than you’re used to, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. If anything, you should be happy for anyone who’s content with their life, even if it doesn’t seem “logical” to you. I would rather be observing what the happy people are doing and applying some of that to my own life.
Why do some people offer other people unsolicited advice online?
* They want to feel useful or have always wanted to mentor people, but are going about it the wrong way
* They have a controlling personality and want to make other people have the same values/lifestyles as them
* They are unhappy seeing someone else happy who isn’t living a life that’s to their liking
* They have something personal against whoever they’re giving advice to – they want to change the person
* They genuinely want to help someone who they believe to be struggling.
* Deep down they have regrets about the path they’ve taken, or feel guilty about things they’ve had to sacrifice to get where they are, so they want others to “suffer” like they have or be more like them so they can feel more secure about their own choices.
* They’re a troll who likes sowing discord.
* They’re narrow-minded and can’t accept that there’s many different paths people can take.
But what if someone is always complaining? There are some people who vent a lot, perhaps without realizing, and they don’t understand how this can affect people in their life who are always there to listen to it. The best thing you can do with a chronic complainer is to use empathy for their situation (this can help cut down complaining), don’t give unsolicited advice, and set boundaries with them.
But what if they’re making decisions I don’t agree with? Unless they’re doing things that are truly harmful to themselves or others, it’s tough luck if you don’t agree with someone else’s life decisions. In the same way you don’t want to be judged for your lifestyle/goals/choices, others don’t want to be either.
How To Stop Giving Unsolicited Advice
You can still offer your support in healthy ways to the people you care about.
Here’s some suggestions:
*Ask them if it would be okay if you made a suggestion I.e. “Could I suggest something to help?” (Respect their option to say no)
*Offer to listen to them “Tell me about what happened.”
*Empathize with them “I’d feel the same if someone said that to me, too.”
*Give accurate empathy to show you’re listening “It sounds like you really want to take a year off and travel.” You’re not telling them whether they should or shouldn’t, but you’re echoing their thoughts back and offering a listening ear.
*Encourage them by relating to a time where they did something nice, smart, or competent. It’s helpful to remind people how capable they are.
*Discuss things with them on an equal level. Sometimes hearing someone out will allow them to process their own thoughts. It’s okay to share your thoughts or feelings about different topics, but try to steer clear of telling them what to do or judging their choices.
How To Respond When Someone Gives You Unsolicited Advice
“Hey, I was just looking to vent before I unwind. I wasn’t looking for advice.”
“Thanks for your ideas, but I can figure this out for myself.”
“That’s not something I want to talk about right now.”
“I know you mean well, but I’m not looking for advice.”
On that note: Is writing a blog post giving unsolicited advice? The reader is consenting to read what I’ve posted so no, it technically is not unsolicited advice. I tend not to give advice as I’m very much a live and let live person. I prefer to share insights or common information that could be helpful (The things I’ve shared today are in line with what most mental health professionals wpuld say on the topic).
If what I blog about isn’t helpful or applicable to you, that’s totally okay. Feel free to take it with a grain of salt or read other blogs. If you do find my posts helpful then I’m more than happy to have you as a reader, as long as you, er, don’t start firing off advice. 😉
If you’re interested in more information on this topic, I’ve included some sources you may find helpful.
I hope you found this post helpful or interesting. It’s something we can all remember when it comes to creating and maintaining healthy relationships. Being a good listener will go a long way when it comes to showing people you care – and a big part of mutual respect is allowing people to have their autonomy. I hope you all have an amazing day! ❤