Every single person I know has been the recipient of unsolicited advice. I think this is one of the many things that society has gotten and continues to get wrong. We should stop giving unsolicited advice. The majority of the time, we vent to others because we simply want to be heard. However, just being heard rarely happens.
It is incredibly important to be validated for the feelings and experiences we have without judgment. However, it is pretty uncommon to receive that validation. Every person I know has had this need to be heard and validated. Regardless, we still continue to give unsolicited advice instead of just validating someone’s feelings by listening. It’s like we forget that others have that need too.
Society has given us many implicit and explicit messages telling us that we shouldn’t need approval or acceptance from others. Well, that’s all well and good but it’s also garbage. It goes against human nature. We need healthy connections with others to have a fulfilled life. Yes, it’s important to be happy for yourself, but that’s a topic for another day. It’s simply human nature to want to be liked, heard and accepted by others.
Unsolicited advice has rarely benefitted me or anybody I know. It typically does one of two things for most people, neither of which are helpful. The first is creating feelings of anger, sadness or shame for the recipient of the unsolicited advice. Those feelings are typically “held in” and not voiced for a host of reasons. Often, the person feels as if they are being told they are bad, wrong or ignorant. Many of us have been told we are just complaining. None of that is beneficial in any way!
The second common response to unsolicited advice is choosing to no longer discuss certain aspects of their life with the person who is continually offering unsolicited advice. Why continue to give them the information they use to tell you how you should be doing things?
Why Do People Give Unsolicited Advice?
There are many different reasons that people offer unsolicited advice. “We” think we feel better about ourselves when we are giving somebody advice. Convincing ourselves that we are helping somebody feels good. Again, NOBODY’S unsolicited advice has EVER helped me in any way, nor has it helped anybody I know.
People immediately jump to giving unsolicited advice due to a subconscious belief. That belief is that we should push away our own difficulties because it’s too much work to face them. Now, most people are unaware they are doing that, which is the reason I say it’s subconscious. It’s much easier to tell somebody what to do than it is to do what is necessary for yourself to actually have the life you want.
It is so easy to take a look from the outside and think we know what a person should do or not do. Sadly, this is the reason many people go into helping professions, especially psychiatry and counseling. Many have the subconscious and, for some, conscious belief that if they have education, experience or have lived more years, then that somehow makes them superior or qualified to tell others what to do with their lives.
If the world had a soapbox big enough for me to tell this to the world, I would climb as high as necessary to get this message to everyone. NOBODY knows what anybody should EVER do with his or her life. Many people go to therapy because they think therapists are supposed to tell them what to do with their lives and give you advice.
As a therapist, I never give advice or tell clients what they should be doing with their lives. It is my job to provide guidance connected to the goal of the client. Most people don’t understand this.
The work I do with clients is guiding them towards the goal THEY want, NOT the goal I want for them or think they should have. I think it is quite narcissistic for somebody to think they know what anybody should do with their life. This does not mean that I don’t have concerns about the goals they want to achieve, because I often do.
Don’t Tell Anybody What To Do
For most people, it is hard to grasp the concept that NOBODY ever knows what ANYBODY should do with their life in ANY situation. I don’t care if you have been in a similar situation. No two people experience anything in the same way. We all have different piles of Not Good Enough Stuff that shape responses to our experiences. You may be able to relate in some ways, but you will never understand or know how a person truly feels about anything.
Now, take a moment. Re-read that until it sinks it. Think about how many times “we” tell people that we understand how they feel. Again, you might have similar feelings but you can never truly understand how anybody feels.
So, why shouldn’t we give unsolicited advice when the advice seems as though it would truly help? There are two different reasons we shouldn’t do this. One is that, if they take our advice and it does not go well, then we would be responsible for leading them to a worse outcome. This could have a lot of repercussions.
Here’s an extreme example to illustrate my point. Think about somebody in a physically or mentally abusive relationship. The solution seems obvious, right? They should leave the abuser. But, what if they need to remain in that relationship a bit longer to heal something or gather the strength they need to leave for good?
If they leave only because they took your unsolicited advice, then they will either go back to the abuser or find a relationship with another one. When they followed our unsolicited advice, it stopped them from doing what they needed to do in order to get to where they needed to be. Does that make sense?
Would you ever tell a child he or she should take a test on a book he had never read? Well, of course not! That would be stupid. If he had not read the book to learn what he needed for that test, the result would be a failing grade.
Now, apply that to people to whom you feel the need to give unsolicited advice. Many might argue that these are completely different scenarios. Yes, they are. However, I am using a simple scenario to show what can result when somebody feels forced to do something because somebody told him or her to do it.
Listen to Your Soul, Not Others
The other reason we shouldn’t give unsolicited advice is somewhat similar, but also different at the same time. When we give unsolicited advice, we are saying that we know what the recipients should be doing on their life paths. I NEVER know what somebody should do on their life path. Hell, it took me many years and wrong turns before I started down the correct path for my soul and I am thankful for every wrong turn I took because I learned so much about myself! ALL of that information I gained was needed.
If I had taken the unsolicited advice I was constantly given, you wouldn’t be reading this right now and I would probably still be deep in depression. When I made the decision to go to graduate school to be a therapist, I was told that, if I was just wanting to go to school, then I should go to law school.
Now, this was unsolicited advice from somebody who never actually knew the real me. I suppose for many that becoming an attorney would be a very prestigious career, but me and my Type B personality would have failed miserably in that career. I’m so thankful that I was able to ignore that unsolicited advice and follow my heart.
So, the next time you feel the urge to give unsolicited advice, take a moment to pause. Consider that maybe you don’t actually know what the person should be doing with his or her life. Then, consider what advice your inner voice is giving you that is hard to follow and that you are ignoring. Only your soul and inner voice know what you should do. So, listen to your soul and inner voice. That’s the difficult part, but then again the difficult stuff is usually the most valuable when we do the work our soul guides us to do.
In conclusion, I’ll repeat what I’ve probably said a million times. If I woke up tomorrow morning and somehow all of my healing work I’d done was completely gone, I’d call up a therapist and start all over. That would be hard as hell, but healing is always worth it.
Now, just know that could never happen for me or you. Healing can never be taken away. You are NEVER taking steps backward. If you feel that you are, just know that the healing and the “lesson” are actually just allowing you to go deeper into your healing. If you’d like to learn more about healing negative self-talk that often comes from unsolicited advice, click here.