Even if you do not have a lot of friends, there are still enough people in your life who constantly offer their advice for how you should live YOUR life.
For some reason, people always seem to have the best advice to provide for another person, but cannot use the same advice to improve their own life. Be honest, we are both guilty of this…
On the rare occasion, unsolicited advice actually proves useful. But the majority of the time, the advice of others is not what we need or even asked to receive. We may just want to vent a little about our situation, but we do not always seek a quick fix suggestion from anyone.
SO, what do we do with all of the useless advice we receive? How do we kindly turn down this unsolicited suggestions from others? Is there anything we can do to prevent unwanted comments and advice?
Well, even someone with the best boundaries may still face the occasional “suggestion” from someone who really has no idea what they are going through. But this does not mean that you should feel hopeless to escape the trap of the opinions and advice of others.
When you receive advice from someone, you have three primary options:
- Use the advice and apply it to your situation.
- Ignore the advice and do not apply it to your situation.
- Consider the advice and store it away as a possibility for your situation.
Using the advice and applying it to your situation:
If the advice seems logical and may be useful to help you, use it! Sometimes we get so caught up in our thinking cycles (negative or positive) that we cannot see other solutions for our challenges. It may require an outside view to give us the suggestion we need to get through a delicate situation. Besides all this, sometimes people give us really good ideas that we may have NEVER thought of on our own.
Ignore the advice and do not apply it to your situation:
Someone, somewhere came up with the ridiculous rule that all advice received must be applied to our situations. NO WAY! Even if a trusted individual in your life provided the advice, if it doesn’t fit, don’t try to force it to be a solution to your problem. Here is where you have to stand on the authority you have as an adult and simply say, “Thank you, but no thank you”; and move on with sorting out your challenge in another way.
We often get so caught up being concerned about offending someone, that we forget whose life we are living: ours! When it comes to living a good life, one instrumental aspect of this is learning to live your life for yourself, making your own choices, and standing on your own beliefs. Every opinion will not work for you just like every person in your life is not the best for you. It is critical to accept this and learn how to respectfully turn down the unsolicited advice of others.
Boundaries are important too (see this article for suggestions on creating boundaries). Once you begin to establish healthy and firm boundaries with the people in your life, you will encounter less kickback when you decline their advice. The people in your life will come to see you as an independent thinker and expect that you will live your life accordingly. There is inherent value in living your life this way. You want to learn how to make decisions for yourself, even if this means declining the advice of others, or somehow integrating it into your decision-making process.
Consider the advice and store it away as a possibility for your situation:
Ok, so maybe you actually received some useful advice. Although you may be uncertain if this may be your solution, if is certainly worth considering. Here is where you take the advice, place it on the back burner of your thoughts and as you process your situation, determine if it is a good fit or not.
Good advice may not be applicable to the particular need you have today, but it may be very useful for a future need. This is why storing it away may be a good idea. Placing a thought on the back burner can be done in the form of writing it down, memorizing it, or asking the person who supplied the advice to consider reminding you of this option at another time. The back burner can be used to help temporarily remove certain thoughts from your immediate thinking process, so that it does not consume your mind when you need to be focused on other priorities. (See this article for more details on the back burner)
Even if you are someone who does not struggle with what to do with useless advice, you would be surprised at how many people really do. What often happens to many adults, is that we develop people-pleasing tendencies, where we always seek to please and avoid disappointment. Of course, this is a very unrealistic approach to life, but it is still a coping mechanism that many people utilize to “keep the peace” in their life.
Conflict has become an avoidance topic today. Passive-aggressive responses to life’s challenges has become more of the norm. I can remember being a child and the way that when my Granny would address my inappropriate behavior, she did it quickly and directly. Back then, along with the way she was raised in the Southern US, when you had an issue you just confronted it. There was no sugar-coating it, waiting to find a nice way to say it, or simply being quiet to avoid conflict and disappointment. Of course, this is not always the best approach for every challenge in life, but it is certainly one that did not involve a people-pleasing tendency or conflict avoidance strategy.
Take a moment to consider what you do and how you process the advice you receive. Are you able to say no if it is useless? Do you know how to use the back burner if it may be useful? How do you apply it to your situation if it is beneficial?
The one guarantee here is that at some point you WILL receive unsolicited advice, so what you do with it is up to you!