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A Ban on Unsolicited Advice


I want to start a revolution,  a Listening Revolution.  It starts with a ban on unsolicited advice.

You know the situation you have a problem.  You are in pain; you are depressed, anxious, insecure or sad.  Maybe you are frustrated with your job; you have been looking for another one to no success, and you are confused as to what you what to do next.  Tonight you are excited because you are going to meet a friend for drinks, you can cut loose, have fun and vent some of your frustration.  So you go to meet a friend for drinks and half way through your beer and your vent they start sharing their story on their job search OR offering you tips on what you should be doing.  Do you feel supported? No.  Do you feel loved? No.  Do you feel annoyed, insulted and angry?  Most likely.

Are there times we need advice?  Yes.  However, MOST of the time we just need someone to listen.  We know what we SHOULD do we might even know what we WANT to do (we just might not be saying it out loud).  But when someone says to us ‘here’s what you should do’ it immediately implies that we are handling it wrong.  It immediately implies that what we are doing it wrong.  Unsolicited Advice isn’t support.  Unsolicited Advice is there to make the advice giver FEEL like they are helping.  Unsolicited Advice, 90% of the time, makes people feel like crap.

Unsolicited advice is a relationship killer.  It shifts the power, and it stops the connection.  Unsolicited advice might feel like it is coming from a loving place.  “I am just trying to help”; “I have been there, so I have the wisdom to share.”  True.  You might have the best intentions.  But when you share your unsolicited advice you aren’t allowing that person to have their journey.  You aren’t allowing them to struggle, figure it out, learn and grow.  Whether intended or not, you are telling them I know better and here is what you should do.

So why do so many of us give unsolicited advice?  Because it is easy.  Because we do want to help.  Because watching someone else struggle is hard and challenging, especially if we have been there before.  But think about your life, when you have been hurting and troubled.  What was more helpful the friend who hugged you and said you “I love you”? Or the friend who said, “here’s what you should do.”

We all get stuck.  We all don’t move through transition as fast as we want to.  And in these moments it is the people who have said to me ‘I believe in you,’ ‘You will get through this’, and ‘wow that must be frustrating’ that were the most helpful.

So what can you do?

  • Join the Unsolicited Advice Ban and catch yourself as you give unsolicited advice. At first, you won’t notice it until after the interaction and then gradually you will start noticing it in the interaction. Whether you catch yourself before, during or after the interaction, acknowledge it and own it.  Apologize to the person you tried to ‘fix’.  Simply say “I am sorry, I want to help, and I realize that giving unsolicited advice might not be the best way; so I am just going to Listen.”
  • Speak up when someone gives you unsolicited advice.  Similarly, at first you won’t notice it until after the interaction and then gradually you will start noticing it in the interaction.  Simply say to your friend as lovingly as possible. “I know you are trying to help, and your heart is in the right place, and right now I just need to vent, I just need you to listen”  “When I am ready for advice I will ask for it.”

Unsolicited advice isn’t evil, is just isn’t as helpful as we intend it to be.  Together we can stop, listen and love in a whole new way!!!  Just listen, don’t fix, don’t give advice and don’t help.  Just listen.  Just support.  Just have empathy.  Just say “wow, that sucks.”

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