This particular blog may come off as more of a rant. I think we can all agree that it’s rare that unsolicited advice helps. Like finding a 4-leaf clover rare. Yet we all do it. We’re guilty of giving it, even though we know how we receive it. Even this blog may be considered unsolicited advice. Oh the irony. I’m operating under the assumption you want to read what I have to say so maybe it’s not so unsolicited.
I think deep down we all do it because we all want to help but don’t always know how. A hopeful ‘A-for-effort’ sort of thing. I know I try to keep it in mind whenever it’s given to me. Though I think we all need to practice more mindfulness before giving advice. Maybe ask the person for permission, or even if they want advice. What good is it to give it if they don’t want to hear it?
Before giving someone advice, ask yourself these questions:
Why am I telling them this?
Will this make them feel better or will it make me feel better?
What am I basing this advice on?
What’s my expertise in the area?
What are the odds they’ve heard this already?
If it’s this simple, why haven’t they tried it? Why do I think it’s that simple?
Do they want to hear this?
If you just need to say something to someone to serve your own peace of mind, or appease your possible desperation to help someone, it may be helpful to the receiver to hear that perspective. “I know you didn’t ask for this, but humor me, I just have to say ____ to make me feel better.”
It’s a bit of a paradox in a way because we don’t know what we don’t know. Maybe we think what we’re saying is genuinely helpful from a resource they may not know about, maybe we are operating under false information, or maybe what we know is just general and the absolutely base knowledge of something and they’ve heard it a lot.
Here’s an example. Say you are having trouble starting a project (as many with ADHD have trouble with). Your friend just suggests that you, “just sit down and start.” That’s not exactly helpful, is it? It’s a bit minimizing of your struggles. The issue is not that simple.
Also, it’s not quite an unsolicited advice example, but it’s in the same realm. When someone tells you to do something that you were about to do anyway, it can kind of put an unwanted weight, or take away motivation to do that thing when it feels more like a forced obligation. By giving advice or telling someone what to do, it may ruin the chances of them doing it. What a minefield!
I think the takeaway from this is to always ask permission before giving advice. You never know where someone is coming from, so be mindful of what you say.