If there is one thing parents hate, it’s unsolicited advice on how to raise their children. The best way to feed them, how to care for them properly when they’re sick, and the best forms of discipline are all popular topics. It can be so frustrating to feel like everyone is telling us what to do. Not to mention, it makes us feel like other people don’t think we know what we’re doing. It’s insulting and makes us feel belittled.
Parents aren’t alone in this battle. Everyone struggles with being offered advice when they didn’t ask for it. Whether it be about a serious topic like marriage or a superficial one like which brand of shampoo is best, unsolicited advice irritates most people. It’s taken personally and offends. It really shouldn’t, however. This advice from all of these well-meaning family, friends, and even strangers in the grocery store is actually a good thing. Not only is it important for our personal growth, but it’s also fundamental to enhancing our lives.
It’s human nature to want to help.
While it might feel incredibly demeaning and frustrating to sit and listen to someone tell us the “better” way to do something, it’s not usually intended that way. We all want to help others. Each of us has a unique combination of experiences, knowledge, and skills that someone else could benefit from. Whether someone asks us for help or not, we want to be there for them to offer solutions.
The blogging world is built around offering solutions to people who are struggling. On this platform, bloggers like myself post suggestions and advice about everything from which fabric softener works best to how to handle it when someone makes fun of your autistic child. The problems are as numerous as there are fish in the sea.
Why does anyone come to a blog for help? For personal growth and to enhance their lives in some way. We’re all looking for someone who understands us, who’s been where we are and has a possible solution to our problem or ideas for us to try. Even if what we learn doesn’t end up working out, we still learned something. And if it’s a problem we’re trying to solve, then we just learned one more way that doesn’t work for us.
That doesn’t make it any less frustrating when people try to solve our problems without our asking. Often, what they’re attempting to help us with doesn’t seem like a problem to us. And that’s exactly why we need to listen to them.
We do not know everything.
It is impossible for everyone to know everything. We all know that. Anyone who says they know everything probably knows less than any of us.
When people offer advice, suggestions, or opinions about our lives it’s because they see a problem. Whether we see the problem or not is irrelevant. It’s very difficult to see things clearly when we see from only one perspective. How many times do you see kids acting awful in the store and the parents seem oblivious to it? Because they don’t see their child with your eyes.
Now, I’m not saying that the advice we receive from others is always correct. Of course, it’s not. What I am saying, however, is that we are doing a disservice to ourselves to dismiss it without hearing it and giving it consideration.
Shutting out opinions and ideas hinders our personal growth.
If we continuously shut out opinions and advice from others when we haven’t asked for it, we are hindering our growth. We are limiting ourselves to only our own thoughts and missing an opportunity to see our world through the lens of someone else.
It expands nothing when we do this. Not our knowledge, not our perspective, and certainly not our attitude.
Imagine for a moment your workplace. Now think of that one person in the office -we all have them- that gets on everyone’s nerves for the same type of thing all the time. Ok, got it? Now think of all the times people have tried to nicely, calmly, rationally, and maybe even sneakily tried to alter the way this person does things.
Maybe it’s the way they interact with customers. Or how they reprimand subordinates. It doesn’t matter. I bet every time it happens, that person shuts down this unsolicited opinion, dismisses it immediately, makes excuses and gets frustrated and irritated. Time passes, and nothing changes.
What if that person would have listened? What if, instead of shutting it all out because they couldn’t see the problem, they were able to take it in? Maybe they wouldn’t do anything about it right away, but after several interactions with various people, they might start to see that there could be a problem.
Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to seeing our problems, our errors, and how we could live better. We need others to intervene on occasion to help us see our lives with new eyes.
We need to see and experience from other perspectives.
It’s impossible to see our lives differently when we are so familiar with them. And it’s not really customary to go around every week or so and ask people, “So, how can I live better?” People would probably find that really weird. (But hey, if you want to try it, good luck!)
In the same way that turning to bloggers for help opens us to new solutions, so does listening to that unsolicited advice that frustrates us.
Our friends and family know us well. They’ve seen our highs and our lows. They know how we think, what we like, and who we are at our core. When they offer us advice, it’s almost always with our own best interest in mind.
What would they have to gain by convincing us to change something in our own lives with bad advice? It has no impact on them whatsoever. So unless they’re the type of person whom you know just likes to brag and listen to themselves speak, there will be value in what they say. Maybe not in its entirety, but there will be something there to learn.
We can’t change the desire to help, so we might as well grow from it.
Even if the advice being offered isn’t helpful, it’s just how people are. We will never stop people from offering opinions, suggestions, solutions, and input. There is absolutely no point in getting upset or feeling belittled. The anger we fear is of the same value to us as is worrying about things we can’t change. It just upsets us for no purpose.
It’s not personal. It’s just instinct. We know things, we want to share what we know. We see problems, we want to offer solutions.
Each of us has a desire to be something, do something, help someone, make life better. That desire only gets stronger with people we’re closer to. It’s why family members so often drive each other crazy. Family is forever offering help where none is requested.
Rather than feeling frustrated and annoyed, we should feel joy.
To be given so much unsolicited advice could be seen as a failure. The idea that we’re only being given advice because the person giving it thinks we’ve failed. But only if we’re looking at our lives from a negative perspective.
It could also be viewed positively. The fact that we have so many people who care so much about us that they want to help us in any way to be as happy as we can? That’s something to truly appreciate. There are so many people in this world who would gladly take unsolicited advice from close family and friends, but have few to offer it. This is the route I choose to take.
We get the opportunity to learn and experience real personal growth. We get to constantly change our perspective on ourselves. Solutions are brought to us like a gift rather than us having to go out and frantically search for them. That’s an amazing thing.
The world revolves around the respectful exchange of ideas.
Communication and the transfer of ideas and information are so important. It’s how governments are formed, organizations flourish, and communities grow.
Humanity relies on these exchanges for growth and development. Learning from one another is critical to our survival. It’s how we will continue to flourish and evolve rather than stagnate, devolve toward negativity, and die out.
At some point, we developed the attitude that we don’t need help from others. We decided that when we do, we’ll ask for it. But this is such a dangerous attitude.
Often, one isn’t aware he even needs help. Even worse, once he does realize it, it might already be too late.
It’s time to reverse that negative, prideful way of thinking.
Let’s go back to when it was okay to tell someone your opinion without the risk of losing their friendship.
Revert to when it took a village to raise a child, rather than a mom Hell-bent on doing it all while her family members sit silently, wishing they could help where she struggles.
Don’t wait for those leaping into adulthood to fail in the real world and then come to their aid when they wind up back on our doorsteps finally asking for help that we could see they needed years ago.
And let’s allow ourselves to take in the opinions, ideas, suggestions, and solutions from others without taking it as a personal attack on how we live our lives. Accept advice as being given from a positive place, from a place of wanting to help, and resist that urge to react in anger or frustration. Each of us can learn something from everyone.
Let’s continue to grow and learn together. We’ll all be a lot better off for it and a whole lot happier.
How do you respond to unsolicited advice? Have you taken it in stride and used it to benefit your personal growth and enhance your life?
-To your Better Life-