• Audrey Tang

Treat unsolicited advice with compassion not crossness

Part of my job is to give advice - when I am asked. This request may come through coaching clients, training workshop requests and through my book commissions. I'm also required to comment on various mental health topics as the resident psychologist for the Chrissy B Show (Sky 203 - moving to Sky 191 from May1st 2018). ...and sometimes I am asked by friends and family.

However, in the world of social media (unsolicited) advice is often given freely. While it is usually well intentioned it can leave the recipient somewhat exasperated...ie. I was posting to vent not to be told what to do. Advice givers will tend to respond - well then don't post!

A recent article in Psychology Today discussed why we may find unsolicited advice so irritating:

Unsolicited advice givers

1...."tend to be rigid in the way they approach life" - if you know them as friends this may be that they have chosen to live their life (happily) in a certain way, and their own sense of happiness validates it as "right."

2. ..."tend to have a grandiose sense of self or perception of their own competence". Similarly to point one - they have often led relatively successful lives (including learning from their mistakes) and probably genuinely do want to help you...but perhaps have failed to realise that you were asking for an ear not a brain.

3. ..."are ruled by compulsion more than self-awareness." Linked to point to, they want to problem solve rather than listen.

This can make us feel frustrated with the advice giver, either in the sense that they have made you feel bad (or not as good as they - who clearly have their life together), or because they have missed the point of your friendship need at that moment in time.

Indeed I put "one of those" posts on facebook specifically stating that I had done so in order to raise awareness of the cause not seek condolences for the reason for it and requesting that the post be shared and any messages kept off my wall. 64 comments of sympathy later, only 3 people actually bothered sharing the post! Not forgetting when I had messaged people privately to inform them of the situation in the first place (and through that - private - channel had been grateful to receive messages of comfort) I still had a number of messages telling me why my choice to behave in a certain way was "wrong" and using the phrases "I am sure that you...", "I know that you..." and "You feel like...".

This grated on me - as a psychologist (who had also recently said on the Chrissy B Show that it's so important to respect how the other person feels - even when it isn't how you feel/would feel), and as a person. It also immediately made me feel guilty - people were just trying to be nice, and here I was complaining to myself (and writing a blog) that this wasn't what I wanted or needed.

All the points that Psychology Today pointed out...!

But then I read the comments and messages again.

Rather than seeing them as something which had gone against what I had wanted (even asked for) - I saw that the offering of advice or support was not an expression of "grandiosity", but an insight into the person speaking. Perhaps the comment was borne out of their need to explore their own feelings in a similar situation. Perhaps it was what they needed someone to say to them. Perhaps it was a demonstration that they value emotional support over practical. Just because it wasn'tmy view, it didn't mean there was anything wrong with it...and just because I hadn't asked for it, doesn't mean it wasn't important.

So I thanked every single person - privately. I recognised that they had just taken that time to share a bit of themselves with me, and for my part, I had learned something about them and how they would best want or receive support from me should the occasion call. (I tend to be a "do-er" rather than a "sympathy giver" - but I see that both are important should I be asked.)

Of course I appreciate the irony of an unsolicited blog post offering unsolicited advice about not offering unsolicited advice - but to those offering - try to do so in the way that the person has asked for it (IF they have asked for it, otherwise, just listen...or at least acknowledge your advice is unsolicited and therefore they can take it or leave it - and don't tell them "You know" how they feel!) To those receiving, maybe the chance to learn a little bit more about that person can help your continuted relationship with them.

...and of course, this being unsolicited (and as with my books) if you connect with what I say, use it, if not - you have lived x many years of awesomeness this far - why change a thing!?

I should add a thank you to those who did respect (and have always respected) my wishes in the first instance - whether they agreed with them or not - I am grateful for your kindness and your friendship.

My book "Be a Great Manager Now" is available on Amazon. My second book with Pearson Education will be out in 2019.

CPD provider 21190
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