Handling unsolicited advice in a gentle, kind manner can be a challenge! My coaching clients often ask for strategies on handling these “know-it-all-ogists” with truth and grace. I don’t claim to be an expert in this realm but here’s the information that I’ve found in my research. Handling unsolicited advice is definitely a universal challenge!
Although it can sometimes be helpful, most of the time the unrequested opinion of somebody else is downright annoying. It often fits their personality better than yours! Repeated offers can be stressful because they feel more like criticism than help when in fact they are offered as sincere guidance. Extensive research has been done on the four distinct types of social support:
Esteem Support: These expressions of encouragement are often a boost to help you see strengths in yourself that you may be overlooking. When sincere and without advice, this form is highly effective.
Emotional Support: Involving physical comfort or pats on the back, this type of support includes more empathic listening than talking. Emotional support is about lifting someone via supportive listening to higher ground so that they can see their way clearly through their difficulty.
Informational Support: This support is in the form of advice giving or sharing/gathering information. Research has concluded that too much informational support in the form of unsolicited advice is worse than no support at all! Surprising to me, this is especially true of marriages.
Tangible Support: Taking on responsibilities for someone else so that they can tend to other problems describes this active support. Tangible support could also include bringing you dinner when you’re ill or providing a safe environment to brainstorm solutions.
Well-meaning people can get offended when their advice is not followed. Here are some strategies to deal with unsolicited advice in the least stress-provoking manner:
Listen and thank them. If details ensue that are irrelevant, say, “Thank you. If I need more advice, I’ll be sure to ask you.”
Accept it, then pivot. If you don’t want to take the advice but care about the feelings of the other person, this is a great strategy. Simply say, “Thank you. I’ll take that into consideration” and then change the subject by asking them an open-ended question. This lets them know that you value their thoughts and curtails the conversation.
Be direct. “I’m sorry if I have given you the wrong impression. I appreciate your sincere efforts to help me but I am not looking for advice.”
When necessary, set boundaries. Politely, but firmly, say, “That sounds like a good idea, but I have my own way of dealing with this.” If they persist, you may have to say, “Thank you, but I’m doing fine.” And then walk away or change the subject.
Remember, attempt to discern their motivation and always look on the bright side. At best, and usually, the recommendation is coming from a place of true caring and concern. At worst, it is coming from a person who needs to feel important or is looking for a way to connect. Rarely, it comes from a passive-aggressive person that you just downright need to avoid. Most importantly, unsolicited advice is really not about you but defusing the stress that it puts on you is essential. Nobody knows God’s plan for you but many will try to guess!
This post is just a drop in the bucket of unwanted suggestions. I have a long history of both giving and taking it! Nevertheless, I want to get better and better at dispensing and handling unsolicited advice. START SOMEWHERE today to nourish your body and your relationships. You can do it. I will help you!