Some people like to give advice. Maybe everyone does, despite knowing how annoying it can be. Sometimes we think we can help so much or don’t think of the other person’s perspective enough that it feels worth it. We’re all used to our thoughts preparing the advice: hoping to avoid stepping on toes, to avoid insulting, and so on.
The other person’s annoyance is often justified. That is, our advice invites it. We may not think of it explicitly, but when we give unsolicited advice we imply “Your life isn’t as good as it could be and I know better than you do how to live it.” Who wouldn’t be annoyed? Most people think they are living great lives. Since their values aren’t the same as yours, they probably consider their life better than yours, no matter what you think.
Despite our best intentions, if we don’t net out our desire to meddle from our intent to be helpful, giving unsolicited advice often motivates the other person to stick to their ways even more, the opposite of our intent. You never know how attached a person is to his or her ways, nor how accepting he or she will be to new ways.
I came up with advice for myself on giving unsolicited advice to others, no matter how great my advice feels:
Imagine you’re advising a mother she isn’t raising her child well and you want to tell her how to raise it better.
Most people aren’t as attached to their ways as a mother to how she raises a child, but then nor will all mothers resist hearing advice. It’s conservative advice, but I’ve done well by it. Maybe I’ve avoided helping a person or two who would have benefited from my advice, but I may just have motivated that person to stick to their ways. Or my way may not have helped them.
That I may have missed chances to help is speculative. What’s for sure is that I didn’t get people annoyed at me for keeping my mouth shut.
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