How to Deal with Unsolicited Advice

I absolutely despise receiving unsolicited advice. I think it is the most arrogant, narcissistic, and rude thing someone can fling your way. I keep trying to remind myself that when someone is doling out unsolicited advice that it says much more about them than me, but it can be so damn hard in the moment to remember that and not get defensive.

It can be very difficult to remain silent and not tell this person off, but we all know that it will not improve anything. I struggle to remain silent when someone is spouting (un)sage advice my way, but I am getting better at dealing with these uncomfortable situations and preventing them from being repeated. 

Firstly you have to understand why people who dole out advice behave the way they do.

People who give unsolicited advice think that everything is their way or the highway (or at least should be). 

They are very rigid in their life views and typically struggle to see situations from vantage points other than their own. They also, obviously, believe that they know best in just about any situation they hear about. Giving out advice makes them feel valued and reinforces that they know best, which is why they continue to preach the way they do.

People who give unsolicited advice are control freaks. 

They genuinely believe that if they could simply control all the decisions everyone was making the world would be a better place. They believe that they are wiser, smarter and simply more superior than other individuals and that is why they pull at your ear so. 

They also might not genuinely feel this, but giving unsolicited advice helps propel this false narrative in their mind. They genuinely want to be seen as strong and insightful, so they continue to push their own agenda to those around them. 

People who give unsolicited advice are in dire need to feel powerful. 

They want to feel like everyone’s personal Yoda. Giving advice to others makes them feel useful, powerful and valuable. It makes these people feel like they have a sense of purpose in life and that their life’s purpose is to help other individuals guide their seemingly hot mess of a life. These people typically are trying to fill some hole in themselves, which they are struggling with, but are going about it in the wrong way entirely.

So, the real question is, how to deal with unsolicited advice when it comes your way?

Like anything in your life which is causing you grief, you need to ensure that you are asserting strong boundaries with others in your life. 

Take a pause, if in the moment you can feel your anger rising, and walk away from the situation. 

Once you have cooled off let the person know that you hear their advice and are not trying to disregard them, but let them know, if from now on, you can ask for their advice when you need it. 

Try saying something like, “I really appreciate you giving me advice in the past and I know that you are coming from a place of support when you are telling me what to do, but I was hoping that moving forward I could let you know when I am looking for advice, is that okay?”

Let the person know that advice is not what you were looking for.

Tell the individual something along the lines of, “Thank you for the advice, but I was actually looking to be heard, rather than directed.” Sure, this can be tough to do, but if the person receiving said information has any empathy, they will take the clear redirection seriously.

Sometimes silence is the most powerful answer of all.

This one is really difficult for me to do, but I find it the most effective of all. Let the person preach their heart out. Let them talk and talk and talk, and simply sit there. It can be amazing how powerful silence can be when a person is looking for verification of their rightness. It can be amazing to let the silence envelope the room, allowing them to slowly realize that perhaps they misspoke, perhaps they are out of bounds, perhaps they should learn to practice silence more often as well. 

You also need to take accountability for how you might be exasperating the situation. 

Are you always complaining about your life to this person? If so, this might be why their unsolicited advice is so apparent in your relationship. Be careful of how you frame your situations in life to others and you might realize that you are venting about your life far more than you should be and perhaps also to the wrong people. 

Receiving or giving unsolicited advice is not healthy in any situation and can force people to pull away from people giving said advice. It can be very tough to receive unsolicited advice because it can make you feel less than, or that this person thinks that you are not capable of handling the course of your own life. Remember that this person is not thinking about how you are receiving this information. They are dealing with their own problems and try to keep that thought in the forefront of your mind. At the end of the day, if all else fails, you have to start distancing yourself from this person, for your own well-being and life.