General Question

wundayatta's avatar

How do you respond to unsolicited advice?

Asked by wundayatta (58638points) June 15th, 2011

Lately, several people have been providing me with advice I didn’t ask for. It’s really weird. It makes me quite angry because the kinds of things they are talking about are deeply personal, and they seem to think they know all about me. I was pretty offended and I decided to tell people exactly what I thought of them—in terms, I believe, that are polite, even if the sentiments are offensive. Of course, thinking about how I was treated made me even more angry, so perhaps I would have been better off to drop it. But then, how would they know how offensive they had been?

How do you respond to unsolicited deeply personal advice? Why do you think people offer such advice? Do you tell people they have been offensive? How do you do it? Do you get your dander up? Do you walk away? Examples could be helpful.

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34 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Not well. Too bad for them.

Bellatrix's avatar

It depends on the advice and more importantly the motivation for giving me advice. Is it to prove themselves right and because they are egotistical or is it because they really believe I need a fresh perspective and they are trying to help.

Sometimes I need to hear things or to view things from a different perspective and that is what the person is trying to help me to do. I may be too pig headed to seek this advice or to even think I need it and those are the times when I probably do need a fresh perspective (not always though). You asked for examples so I will try to provide one. When I have had an argument about something and can only see things from my perspective and a friend decides to give me a few home truths and to try to help me see the other side of the argument.

Then there are those people who are themselves pig headed or one-eyed who feel it is their right to tell me I am wrong. I may choose to tell them what I think or decide they aren’t worthy of the effort. It depends on the circumstances and the person. In these cases it may very well make me cranky though. People who decide my opinion is ill-informed (when I know it isn’t) and proceed to tell me how wrong I am and provide nothing but their emotional, superficial view of the situation.

Berserker's avatar

Hope y’aint talking about me. XD

But I see where you’re coming from. It’s like, if I ask for a burger and you go, would you like fries with that?

Uh, did I ask for fries?

I get pissed off, because I always feel that I’m being patronized, or used as a shooting range for someone wanting to show off how awesome they are. My interpretations are probably usually wrong. I hope. I try and stay polite, but in my mind it’s all like, fuck off.

Coloma's avatar

Who was it that said the other day, ” if one person says you’re a donkey, ignore it, if 10 say so, buy a saddle” lol

I loved that!

Bottom line, we know ourselves better than anyone else, be open, if it stings a bit, take it to heart, if you KNOW it is untrue, deeply KNOW, disregard it.

You and I have had our moments, but….assuming makes an ass out of you & me.

I always take into consideration anothers perceptions, POV, but, if deep down I know it is less than on the mark, I simply let it go.

IF, on the other hand, it merits some reflection, I do the ‘work’. I can say that that has happened in our interactions recently, and I have remained staunch in some ways and open to examination in others.

The best barometer is how reactive one feels, if very reactive, then, usually a bit of self examination is in order.

dabbler's avatar

I might be polite but make sure they know I think it’s an “opinion” or “suggestion”

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma I have been a bit hard on you lately for some of your points of view that I strongly disagree with. But I respect you, and I know you’ve come to your opinions through a lot of hard work. You are absolutely sincere in them, I believe. We see the world in different ways. Of course, that’s true for most of us.

However, I hope I would never offer you advice you hadn’t asked for. I hope I wouldn’t tell you you haven’t got your head on straight—unless you asked about the slant of your chin. My assumption (there we go again) is that you wouldn’t listen to any unsolicited advice.

I’m kind of amazed that you think you could hear some and listen to it enough to take it into account. I will ask people for a reality check occasionally, and ask them to tell me whatever it is they really think. But if they just volunteered it, how could they expect me to hear it? How could they expect me to get beyond the anger of the insult? My head gets all fuzzy and my shoulders tense up, and it is very, very unpleasant when someone presents me with such advice.

Maybe you don’t react that way. But if someone told you that you were misguided in your life and have a goose as a pet was animal cruelty, especially if you take that goose into a hot tub, how would you react? What if they told you you needed to see a shrink for your goose issue? Could you ever see through to a point where you could question yourself enough to question your relationship to your goose? Or would you reject it out of hand? Or get angry? Or give them a piece of your mind?

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I agree with @Coloma ‘s statement….I didn’t have to write a thing ;)

SpatzieLover's avatar

I attempt to not be reactionary…but I do not hold back my honesty. If it’s unsolicited, then it’s usually about some choice I’ve made. If that is about me, fine. I might even just let it go and not address it. It the “advice” is about how I’m raising/schooling or meeting the needs of my child…Stand back Bessie!

Cruiser's avatar

I have gotten my fair share lately…amazing how all of a sudden they think they are an expert when they have not walked one single step in my shoes. I just remind myself that I got this far on my own and no one’s “opinions” will change a G’d Damn thing!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Not well. I’ve had several people who didn’t just give me unsolicited advice a couple of times, but routinely told me how I should be living my life. The best parts were the ones with really conflicting advice – in one case, a woman who had become something of a mother figure to me would repeatedly tell me to get away from my parents no matter what, and then 15 minutes later told me that even though they are abusive, they’re my only parents and I should spend as much time around them as I can. One night she sat me down for about 2 hours and proceded to tell me everything she thought was wrong with my life (basically, everything), and laid all the problems she has with “kids my age” on me, and finished it off by telling me that it’s so imperative to get away from my parents that I should give blowjobs down in our local red light district instead. That was the last time I ever talked to her.

The unsolicited advice on Fluther gets to me more than I wish it would, because not only is it unsolicited, but the idea that some random jelly should take advice from another jelly they don’t really know seems absurd. There’s a limit to how well we can know each other on here without private conversations, so I always think “If this was your kid, and they told you ‘Look, this guy online, @soandso, told me I shouldn’t be doing it’ wouldn’t you totally loose it that even though it could be great advice, it could also be from some 40 year old man pretending to be a 13 year old girl who also advises experimenting with LSD?” And it is normally the parents on here who give the unsolicited advice and judgment on General questions.

There’s actually a line of thinking that advice, especially unsolicited advice, is a form of violence. I quite like this idea.

wundayatta's avatar

I would agree with you, @MyNewtBoobs. That’s how I experience it, and that explains how angry it makes me. Of course, it’s always the retaliation that is seen. The violence of the original unsolicited advice is not considered violent by an observer, so they take it out on the retaliator, not the person who initiated the violence. Worse, they join in by offering even more unsolicited advice. Yikes!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@wundayatta Yeah, I mean, if it’s someone who doesn’t do it often, I try to reply politely with something like “Well, that’s certainly an interesting suggestion” (man, I love how generic “interesting” is for those situations). If it’s someone who’s doing it a lot whom I still want to have a relationship with, I’ll try to say “hey, I appreciate the sentiment, but I’d really appreciate it if you kept your advice to yourself”. And if it’s someone who I kinda have to have a relationship with, but who gives it all the time, I don’t respond and just try to change the subject when they do it. And obviously, if it’s someone whom I don’t have a relationship with, and they really keep doing it and crossing the line like in the example above, it’s a deal breaker.

Course, I try to communicate effectively in the moment, but usually, I end up resenting them behind their back for awhile, especially if it doesn’t seem like it comes from a place of really wanting the best for me, but rather judging me and wishing I would change for them instead of accepting me as I am. Resenting people behind their backs is so healthy, don’t you think? ;p

Coloma's avatar

I don’t take anything ‘personally’, unless, again, it rings that little bell within.

I know myself very well, have a great ability to watch, as the witness, as my ego gets in a lather. haha

I do my best to NOT offer unsolicited advice, but, I also reconcile that with, what is, sometimes, brutal honesty.

Trust me, I don’t expect anything from anyone that I don’t expect from myself, sooo, no double standards at play here.

I have my quirks, habits and vices like everyone else, but…I am a very genuine person, self aware, not every second, but, give me space and I’m on it.

I’m very good at catching myself and when I do, I’ll let you know. ’-)

perspicacious's avatar

Most likely I would ignore it.

woodcutter's avatar

There are the rare times when it was good advice and do appreciate it. I’m not too proud to look at things a different way.

wundayatta's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs “I try to communicate effectively in the moment, but usually, I end up resenting them behind their back for awhile, especially if it doesn’t seem like it comes from a place of really wanting the best for me, but rather judging me and wishing I would change for them instead of accepting me as I am.”

Yes, that rings a bell. I’ve never had this experience before and I think my anger came from them saying they were trying to help me when really they just wanted me to give them something for their own prurient interests. I didn’t realize that then, but this helps me understand why I blew up about it.

I find resenting people behind their backs to be very salutary. Probably why I need a chiropractor so often. ;-)

blueiiznh's avatar

I get somewhat offended when it is done unsolicited.
Depending on how it hits me and who from I just say “I didn’t ask for your oppinion”.
Others I might just ignore it, but give a nod that I listened.

YARNLADY's avatar

I usually try to take any and all advice in the spirit it is given, trying to help. I would most likely say “Thank you for caring enough to offer your opinion”.

Jude's avatar

I have never had this happen online.

Not sure how I would handle it.

anartist's avatar

If it is truly unwanted I change the subject, even by saying something as obvious as “And how was the play, Mrs Lincoln?”
It is easier on fluther. I leave the thread. But I wouldn’t ask for advice like that on fluther, and flutherites don’t usually give it unless asked.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

For those offering it: “Thank you for the unsolicited advice. It will be taken into consideration.” And it is. More often than not, I let the person know what action is taken if they are a friend or family member. Maybe it is just me, but I enjoy knowing the outcome of a situation.

Coloma's avatar


My goose never goes in the hot tub, only the cold tub, and, well..I’d say I have educated myself enough over 13 years of goose ‘ownership’ to say that, I am the goose whisperer. But hey, I am well aware my eccentricities could be misconstrued.
That’s okay…cuz we’re all happy campers out here in the wilderness, lol
Semi-well heeled, free lance writer, bohemian, eccentric esoteric lady…uh, does that translate to ‘mother goose’? Sit on my lap and I’ll tell you a story. lol

Thoreau me baby!

Jeruba's avatar

For me it depends entirely on (a) whether it’s stupid advice or good advice and (b) whether it’s offered respectfully and diplomatically or in a manner that gets my back up. My son can say “I see what you’re trying to do. Would you like a suggestion?” in a way that I welcome, whereas when my husband says “You’re doing that the hard way. Why don’t you —”? I’m as likely as not to declare that I know what I’m doing and I already considered the other way and rejected it.

When it comes to something deeply personal, I don’t actually know anyone with the nerve to offer me such advice unsolicited. But then, I don’t put deeply personal things out there where people who don’t know me well would be likely to form an opinion about them. I can’t imagine that I’d take the advice very well, but I’d probably try to be gracious if I thought it were kindly meant.

keobooks's avatar

I used to get really ticked off when someone gave me unsolicited advice. It happened rarely enough that it seemed like an affront. New moms get this ALL THE TIME. From friends, family members, total strangers..

After all of this constant unwanted advice, I’ve become almost immune to it. I just shrug it off and say “Huh.. interesting” or something really bland and wander off. It makes the crazy strangers go away and friends and relatives .. I just sit in content silence after my bland comment. They used to stammer around trying to get me to jump in and defend my not taking their advice or wait for me to promise to take it. Now they just sit quietly, see if I’m going to take the bait and then change the subject on their own.

I think my approach works. It brushes off the strangers and it turns the tables on the annoying friend or family member and can make them squirm a little bit. Then they do it less often.

augustlan's avatar

I take into consideration the intent behind the advice (benevolent? judgmental?), how it’s given, and who it’s coming from. From there, I can decide to ask for more input if it’s something I might want to consider, say “Thanks, but I prefer XYZ.”, or say something like “I’ll keep that in mind”, while immediately putting it out of my mind altogether. If it was especially hurtful (and given in a hurtful way), I’d want to know why. So I’d ask.

BarnacleBill's avatar

It depends on why the advice is being given and what they expect me to do with it. I am incredibly obstinate, and would not do anything because someone told me to do it. However, unsolicited advice is often an eye-opener about what I’m projecting to others. Do I seem as if I’m floundering, and in need of advice? Do I need advice? Does it seem to others as if I’m on a path to screwing something up?

Being offered advice, and being compelled to act upon it are two different things. Likewise, construing advice as being told what to do is a throw back to childhood when your parents told you what to do. Let go of that, and accept that as an adult, you’re going to make decisions that affect your life and the lives of others entirely on your own. No one can “make” you do the right or wrong thing; you and only you, own it.

Plucky's avatar

I agree with the people who say it depends who’s giving the advice, how it’s given and the intent behind it. I don’t get a lot of unsolicited advice. I think because most people that know me, know how extremely self aware that I am. I tend to know more about those around me than they know about themselves (both a blessing and curse). I don’t talk to a lot of strangers about personal things ..except on Fluther. Maybe I haven’t been around, on Fluther, long enough for people to feel the need to interject with their wisdom.

Hmm…Ok, I can think of a couple times in the last year that my family gave me this type of advice. I talked to them about it. I explained my concerns and issues with the advice. I made sure that they understood that I understood their points and intent. The advice given, by the way, was the type that I already knew myself. I don’t need someone to point out things that are already very clear to me (a prime example of this type of advice would be: “You’re too skinny” ..“You’re too fat” ..“So maybe you should do this, and this, etc.”).

I certainly hope I have not given unsolicited advice here, on Fluther. I usually try to give positive encouragement but maybe that can come across as advice.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@BarnacleBill I can definitely see the idea of tons of unsolicited advice meaning that you seem to people like you’re in need of advice. But there are two problems with that – first, filtering out all the bad advice, or advice that won’t work for you, and second the assumption that if someone’s floundering, the advice giver is just the person to fix it. Even when maybe I don’t have it all together, I often feel that it’s like the beginning of The Incredibles where you have the random citizens in distress, but the superheroes didn’t actually help anything but their egos, and often made things worse. And then you have to take into account that there are tons of things that simply aren’t societally acceptable (or at least acceptable to some), but it’s not actually toxic. For example, some would think that advising me to embrace Our Lord Jesus Christ and get conversion therapy for my homosexuality was really great advice. It might be a sign of how you come across to others, but should you really worry so much about how you come across to others?

BarnacleBill's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs, I have to think that most people, aside from random strangers, who offer advice of a personal nature are people who care about your wellbeing and happiness. And filtering is needed. Your grandmother wanting you to enter conversion therapy for homosexuality should be handled differently than the waitress at the coffee shop you patronize wanting you to enter conversion therapy for homosexuality; the later can be handled by either an annoyed look, complaints to the management or switching to a different coffee shop.

However, some situations, like telling friends that you’re thinking about divorcing your spouse before you actually ask your spouse for a divorce or moving out of the house, can be construed as an invitation to provide advice. Unwittingly, sometimes people solicit advice by sharing confidences and making people party to an internal rationalization process. Verbalization is often part of accepting a decision yourself; hearing it makes it real. However, the individuals you happen to verbalize something to haven’t been privy to the months of thinking that have led up to the decision, and perhaps they feel they are being asked to weigh in.

_zen_'s avatar

General = fact Social = opinion.

I think if you ask a question in Social, one that has no real answer and one that is personal, if it stimulates discussion and gets someone to offer advice – then it was a good question.

I think we have to separate advice and suggestion from an “attack”. I’ve noticed that certain people have a certain style of writing – and they wouldn’t necessarily say the things they write in person. Often, they aren’t really suggesting or advising anything, but rather, thinking out loud.

Besides, as I like to quote Baz Luhrmann, Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it.

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’m not good about it. Most of the time I won’t respond but with the simplest acknowledgement so they know I’m not open to discussion. I look at advice and criticism carefully since one sometimes is disguised as the other. I take it whatever is said or shared with me but I don’t feel obligated to get into it whether or not I mull it over on my own.

cheebdragon's avatar

I give them the unsolicited middle-finger.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
mattbrowne's avatar

“I can handle it myself.”

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