This is another ‘dear diary’ post, so I hope you’re ready for it.
Let’s start out with a good ole’ confession (you know how I love those)!
Confession: I struggle with unsolicited advice. (Both giving it, and receiving it).
There are many reasons for this, some of which I’m sure I’ll get into during this post (clearly I don’t have a plan for this post and am just writing it to see what happens. Go with me on this.).
Basically, I’m a person who loves advice. Self-help book? I probably have read it or have it on my ‘to read’ list. I want to know everything about any topic… it’s just my (perfectionist) nature. For good or for bad, I want to be the very best I can be and I’m hyper-critical of myself in almost every area of life. And, I’ve always been someone who turns directly to my friends for advice on a whole assortment of matters. Lately, I’ve tried to really only ask friends who are experts in a situation for advice, because otherwise, even though friends may mean well, I get an entire of assortment of opinions that aren’t useful.
For instance, if I have a financial question, I ask rich friends who friends who have successfully gotten out of debt / solved a financial problem / etc.
If I have a question about my body, I ask my nursing friends.
If I have a question about friendships, I ask my girl friends who have nurtured really strong friendships.
If I have a business / work question, I go to the Husband or my friends who are in the same or a similar role/industry.
If I have a relationship question, I go to my church group (of married people), whose relationships and struggles and successes I admire and respect.
If I have a family question, I go straight to therapy. Even my friends can’t help on that one!
It just wouldn’t make sense to go to my nursing friends with a career growth question or to my business friends to ask why my periods are being so crazy.
It also wouldn’t make sense for me to go to my single friends to ask a marriage question.
Anyway, these are just the issues I’ve had in the past month or so! You can imagine that I’ve reached out (over the last 15 years or so, in some cases!) to friends about a variety of problems.
The thing is, I love getting advice when I ask for it. I am the first person to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing in most areas of life. I love hearing other peoples’ perspectives and the ways they’ve solved / gotten through similar situations.
But, then the unsolicited advice comes in… and I’m sensitive to it. I wish I wasn’t, but I just am.
Sometimes I don’t share things with certain friends or people in my life just because I know they’ll have an opinion on it, and I don’t really care what it is.
However, I know for a fact I do this same thing to other people. For me, it’s just so hard NOT to.
Especially about dating and finances. Ohhhh if I could save my friends/family from the pain I’ve gone through in relationships, I would in a second. So, I have no problem telling friends they’re dating a jerk. I mean, how many stories do I have to listen about a guy treating a friend badly before I can just say that I don’t like them?
And finances are another tricky area for me. I’ve always been frugal. I majored in accounting and finance and I’ve read tons of personal finance books out there (for fun!). Am I an expert? HECK NO. Do I know way more about them than most people? Undoubtedly.
The problem is, when my friends are struggling in these areas, I want to help immediately. Sometimes I see the solution so easily! The answer is right there, it’s obvious! Dump the guy! Put extra money into savings! Etc!
But a lot of times, my friends aren’t asking for advice – they’re just venting about problems. And when it comes to this, I communicate like a man. I want to solve problems, darnit!
Sure I’m sympathetic and even empathetic, but if I see a solution, I feel like it’s my obligation as a friend to help my friend/family member improve their situation.
Because it IS my obligation, right?!
Wrong. I think this is actually wrong.
Yes, in theory it would be great if we could help our friends by pointing out ways they could improve their situations.
But the thing is, my friends don’t always want to ‘fix’ themselves.
They may be in a phase where they just like dating jerks (been there, done that… no intervention helped with me!) or they might just not be in a place where they care about their finances (I can’t relate to this, but I know others can)!
So I realized (through trial and error and being aware that I’m annoying some friends of mine) that it only helps to give advice to people who:
- Have asked (specifically) for advice.
- Are already trying to help themselves.
- Are in a position to take the advice.
The Husband and I see this a lot with our families. We would LOVE to help our family members fix some things, but they don’t want to be fixed – and we have to accept that. Like when my brother moved in with his girlfriend of the time… I could see that disaster from a mile away. Luckily, he came to me for advice. I gave it to him. Did he listen? Heck no! Did it end in disaster? Of course! I probably should have saved my breath, really.
The thing is, he asked for advice, but he wasn’t really being objective. He already knew he was going to move in with this girl.
I think people do this a lot (myself included): they ask for advice but know what they’re going to do ahead of time.
That’s why when I ask for advice I make sure I ask for very specific advice and let the friend know that I’m really open to whatever they’re going to suggest. And I also make sure I’m actually going to take their words into consideration so I’m not wasting their time talking about problems that I don’t intend on fixing.
And now comes the hardest part… not giving unsolicited advice. This is going to be hard for me, guys.
I think my approach is going to be to recognize that even though people ask for advice, they may not really want it – they may just want the opportunity to vent. So, if a friend’s dating a jerk, I’m going to stay away from giving my opinion. If a friend is about to make a pretty bad financial decision, I’ll just nod and smile and wish them luck.
Will I talk to the Husband and be a bit frustrated that my friends are making their lives a bit harder? OF COURSE.
Do my friends do that with me when I don’t ask for or take their advice? I’m sure!
I’m getting better, though. I’m really attempting to love people exactly where they’re at and to not attempt to change them at all.
… And it’s working!
I can’t change people. I can’t fix the world. I’m not an expert. And I definitely don’t know what’s best for every person in their specific circumstances.
I just keep reminding myself that when I see a situation I immediately want to fix.
And when friends or family members give me unsolicited/unhelpful advice, I thank t hem and change the subject.
I would never want the giving or receiving of unsolicited advice to hurt a friendship or relationship, and that’s the bottom line.
Does anyone else struggle with this?! I would love to hear how you handle the giving or receiving of unsolicited advice.
Cheers to friendship!