Addicted to Advice-Giving? Break the Habit!
Updated: Oct 30, 2021
You might think I’m postulating angrily because I’m fed up with unsolicited advice-givers. The truth is… I’m often the guilty party. And I know I’m not alone. There’s probably a 12-step program dedicated to advice-giving addiction. My advice to you... (yes.. my advice) .... in a word... stop! It’s just that simple.
I've discovered that except in rare extreme situations, giving people unsolicited advice when they haven't asked for it simply doesn't work. At best, it may make you come off as arrogant or snooty.
Why do we offer unsolicited advice anyway?
Although I believe my advice comes from a kind and compassionate place, it's still an uninvited intrusion for the recipient. With sincere, loving intention, we 'advice givers' believe we want to offer encouragement and help people grow and change. But who says someone needs fixing and changing?
Speaking for myself, as a natural-born teacher, I feel duty-bound to pull you up into the sunshine with me - now that I've had the opportunity to learn from my own mistakes. But I need to keep reminding myself that for most of my life I openly rejected advice from others. I needed and wanted to make my own mistakes, to discover the truth for myself - my truth. People need to see the result of their wrong thinking for themselves. Ultimately, that’s how we learn and grow – by having the experience. We all need to go through with that wrong thinking and see the result it produces. Then, what we learn is much more lasting and makes a longer impression.
Truth Be Told
Throwing advice out there isn't as appreciated as you think it might be - it reeks of being dismissive of respectful boundaries. In fact, if you're on the receiving end of unwanted advice, it may be necessary to also set boundaries around a persistent advice-giver (parents be warned!).
Unsolicited advice sounds judgmental, and the recipients often aren't expecting it. Perhaps they weren't thinking about that topic you just raised - it may be something you just saw them do or heard them say that you think you could help them with. Perhaps they know it about themselves, but they don't see it as a problem. Or just maybe, they know they have a problem but are seeking advice elsewhere.
If someone comes back to you and asks questions or asks your advice, you may become more of a mentor, and they are likely more open to accepting your wisdom. But if they don’t come to you for advice, don’t take it personally. Perhaps they simply don’t want you to be a part of the solution. They may not think you are qualified to give advice - contrary to your belief that you are.
I'm reminded of an instance when my sister and I offered unsolicited marriage advice to my nephew (her son). He angrily reminded us both that we were divorced. In his mind, we had little worthwhile advice to give regarding the secret to a successful marriage. In fact, he went so far as to say we didn't have a right to offer advice on the subject! In our mind, being married and divorced gave us the wisdom of hindsight and experience. But we didn't consider all the things that have shaped his view of the world - his upbringing, personality, age, gender, changing social environment ....... etc. How could we possibly know what was right for him?
Taking the High Road
If you take it personally or see it as a rejection, you might need to look within and figure out why you need to be seen as the expert, the authority? What are you trying to prove? Are you offering advice because you need to feel valued... important? Some advice-givers want to take the superior role in the relationship dynamic - want to be the more knowledgeable one. Giving advice puts them in that position. They may also be hoping to keep you emotionally dependant upon them out of their need to feel needed.
Many psychics are guilty of advice-giving. We often see a part of the person they felt they had successfully hidden from the world. But in exposing the hidden truth and offering advice, we may inadvertently embarrass them. The ego wants to protect us and finds all sorts of ways to keep us in denial about our emotional/behavioural patterns. The ego supplies us with masks to hide our insecurities and shadow-self. So who are we to determine when it’s time to expose someone and make them see the truth. When advice is given this way, it kind of reeks of superiority, doesn't it?
In Psychology Today, Dr Art Markman researchers discovered:
“…giving advice to others can increase the feeling that you have power. In particular, the researchers suggest that when you advise someone else, it gives you the sense that someone may follow your advice. That belief that you are influencing someone else’s behavior then leads you to feel more powerful.”
Warding Off the Complainer
Perhaps you're giving unsolicited advice because your friend is always complaining and has a victim mentality? You offer advice in the way of positive solutions, hoping they will find happiness. They may only need or want you to listen. But if there appears to be no attempt to change their situation, this friendship can begin to feel draining. You need to recognise too that some people are simply addicted to drama. So instead of offering advice, listen, empathise, then establish boundaries around this person and don't allow them to keep dragging you under. Complainers and drama addicts can be toxic.
Alternative to Advice Giving
Not sure if you give unsolicited advice, or not sure how often you do it? Just try to stop doing it - then you'll discover the extent of your addiction. You really don't know how often you do something until you try to stop doing it! Once you become aware of the existence of this off-putting little habit, try these instead...
Felicia Sullivan suggests...
Stop fixing and start listening. Learn to empathise instead of sympathising.
If you truly have altruistic intentions, instead of telling people how to live their life, ask them how you can help. Just because something worked for you, doesn't make it right for everyone else.
If you’re itching to give advice, ask for permission - and respect when you are told "no".
Be empathetic and emotionally supportive of whether or not they accept your offer for advice.
Most importantly, be honest with yourself about your motive for giving advice. If you're not intending to appear judgmental, passive-aggressive, or superior in some way, I can assure you this is how you will come across. It is by all accounts, not a means to a healthy relationship with anyone, and will push people away.
And Finally... Be Love and Light
Regardless of why you offer unsolicited advice, it's highly likely the recipient won't be open to receiving it. They're possibly not thinking in terms of changing. So… if they don't ask… don't give it - simple as that. If they ask, then they’re open to receiving. If they ask, they’re thinking about it. If they ask, they know they have a problem.
If you believe you are a shining example to others, instead of giving unwanted or unsolicited advice, how about you be the change you want to see in others! Simple as that. Just be you. Lead by example. Your very existence, and the way you live moment by moment, will show others the way - and only if and when they are ready. And only if the way you live is deemed appropriate for them. Who says you've got the secret to everything?
Okay... one last piece of advice (you are reading this blog after all)...
Live with love. That's it..... Live with love. Let love guide your every decision. Let love guide your every action, your every thought, every word. Let your love be the guiding light for others to follow. Not your unsolicited advice. No words needed. You can relax.
I'm reminded of the song "Love lifts us up where we belong"... it was never "Advice lifts us up where we belong".
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Disclaimer: If you have suffered severe mental, physical, emotional abuse as an adult or a child, you will be well advised to seek the assistance of a professional psychologist to help deal with the effects of abuse. This website, blogs & podcasts, and the counselling offered by me are offered under the assumption that you have already begun your healing journey, and are now ready to move more fully into taking responsibility for yourself. Ready to begin developing self-worth, self-love, and are interested in finding the gifts in the adversity you have faced.