Handling Unsolicited Advice



In my last post here, I talked about receiving advice from advisors, mentors, and people from whom we generally ask for counsel.

But we’ve all been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice. You know, when the well-meaning (or not so much) friend, family member, colleague, or opinionated acquaintance gives you their two cents about what you’re doing (or should be doing) with your job or life in general.

Truth is, there can be gems in those unsolicited advice too–if we open ourselves to discovering them.

But every now and again, we’ll come across the ones that seem to hit all the wrong buttons.

So, instead of feeling gracious for having received some word of wisdom, we feel as if someone has blindsided us, and trespassed on our private turf. Our defenses go up. We feel a variety of emotions following the interaction: annoyed, defensive, insulted, embarrassed, among others.

There are times in our lives when we become magnets to such unsolicited words of wisdom. Deciding to make a big change in your life, like switching careers?  Yep, definitely ripe moments for some of these well-meaning advice, and it’s best to be prepared for the influx of all kinds of points of view.

Here are a 5 things to keep in mind next time you find yourself in this position:

1. Who’s dishing out the unsolicited advice?

Does this person truly have your interest at heart? Does he/she have a unique perspective on the situation that’s worth listening to? Has she experienced something similar in the past, and can shed some light on some truths, no matter how difficult it may be to hear?

2. Can you simply ignore the advice, or must you respond?

At the end of the day, no one can force you to listen or follow an advice. Can you simply acknowledge the person, thank him for sharing his thoughts, and move on?

You’ll find that often, there isn’t any need to provide a response or explanation for your actions or decisions.

3. Remember that the advice is always given through the advisor’s filters.

Every advice you’ll hear (including the ones in this note), is shared through the giver’s world view and his own filters. Someone who sees the world as glass half-empty will tend to look at risks, whereas someone who shows up with a glass half-full point of view, always sees the opportunities.

Understanding that a person’s advice is at least partly about them, will save you from taking things personally and being inadvertently hurt in the process.

4. Find a way to get the sting out.

Sometimes, the advice rubs you in all the wrong places, and stings. If you truly can’t find anything worth harvesting, and it’s simply doing damage to your mindset and confidence-level, then you must do everything you can to avoid letting the advice stick.

The worst thing is to let the person’s words find a home in your head, and become another negative voice back there. If you aren’t able to shake it off by yourself, talk to a friend, or another mentor, your therapist even, if you have one. Don’t let their words find a home.

5. Be gracious.

Assume the best in people, and thank the person for his time and the effort he took to share his thoughts. Best case scenario, the unsolicited advice is helpful and you find some value in it. If not? Change the topic of conversation or simply walk away from it. Remember #3 above, and if it really bites,  #4.

About the Author: Lou Blaser is the Chief Ambition Prod at Second Breaks. She is a change and strategy advisor, who helps people get unstuck from their stalled Plan A careers.


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