You wouldn’t believe the number of ‘beauty experts’ desperate to share unsolicited advice. When severe acne clustered over my face, I was seeing a GP and dermatologist, following a regimented regime, changing my pillowcase near daily and eating wide amounts of ‘skin food’. But thank goodness some people took it upon themselves to suggest products and other ideas I’d already tried.
It may seem helpful – is it also helpful to randomly give advice to a stranger on how to lose weight, or how to get rid of their hair frizz and look more presentable? See there’s a line between rude and caring. According to an article on Medium, women typically receive more unsolicited advice than men.
Unsolicited advice can be sinister
The piece on Medium mentions research which reveals many advice givers enjoy feeling “more powerful” telling people what to do and some like offloading their opinion to “feel needed”. Emma Jacobs writing for the Financial Times, spoke about unsolicited advice on social media as a form of bragging. Think: “I’ve got two fancy cars, a walk-in wardrobe with designer clothes and I travel all the time. I didn’t even go to university, so don’t give up.”
Emma says most advice is “fuelled by the desire for an ego boost.” When someone tells me advice I haven’t asked for, I feel they’re subtly saying they no more than me. As though I’m not strong or smart enough to make my own decisions – sometimes that’s true. And that’s life – you make wrong decisions and you grow from them and hopefully improve the next time. If I feel an individual has beneficial input to make, I’ll ask. I’ll read an article, listen to a podcast or watch a guide – I won’t sit in silence praying for help.
Publication The Active Times considers unsolicited advice as toxic behaviour. It can feel “patronising” and “interfering”. Occasionally as an embarrassment tactic. A few years ago, I was out of work for a few months. A person decided to inform me on how to find jobs out loud on a busy train, knowing I was uncomfortable with the situation. People who unravel your secrets as they ‘advise’, really disguise a negative trait in their personality.
Unsolicited advice – bad for mental health
If you have suffered from any form of mental health, you’ve probably received the advice: you just need to exercise, get a new hobby and simply stop worrying. This nonchalant attitude is still spread by some today, despite a push for mental health awareness. Verymindwell.com says advice can create “resentment” and “frustration” for both speaker and listener. An advice giver can feel annoyed if they think a person has ignored or paid no attention to their thoughts, while a listener can feel agitated if they don’t agree.
I believe introverts and quieter people handle the most unwelcome assistance. Maybe that’s because they seem an easier target. An extrovert assumedly voices their opinion back and an introvert may just agree to avoid confrontation. I’ve happily nodded to stuff before and said the expected “yes, I agree” to diffuse a conversation. If someone is always there questioning your methods, how can you improve or trust your instincts? Doesn’t too much unsolicited advice encourage insecurity? And ultimately make you become less confident in your actions? I hate when someone advises you after you’ve done something.
“I wouldn’t have done this” … how are you suppose to respond? “Oh, thank you so much for making me now feel stupid”. I haven’t got evidential statistics, but I’m positive the majority of unwanted help stems from unqualified people. Or people who have past experience. “I’ve had a wedding, let me tell you how to plan one – I’ve spent a week in this country, these are the places you need to visit”. There’s a reason we have blogs – if you want to share tips, you can upload content and let a reader decide whether or not it’s worth knowing.
How to respond and why some unsolicited advice is good
Business.com recommends to “listen” and “keep an open mind”. Additionally, their guide on how to respond suggests to stay calm and not give a reaction. Contrary to this post, unsolicited advice is good to share from time to time. If a friend keeps talking about a problem without doing anything – a gentle nudge can push them to take action. Likewise, a person might feel awkward about a particular topic, and your guidance can provide comfort.
It’s about the wording you choose. Rather than “you should”, I prefer “if you need any help” or “there are some things I do, I can tell you if you’re interested” etc. Letting a person decide makes them feel in control, and you don’t have to waste time explaining to a person who doesn’t care. If I had listened to all the advice given to me, I’d have screwed up less, yet missed out on huge opportunity.
How do you feel about unsolicited advice? Are you guilty of giving it out, or do you feel you get too much of it?