How Can I Stop People From Giving Me Unsolicited Advice?

Your family may have your best interest at heart, but here’s how to deal with their unwanted advice.

Photo by Frank Heckers

Q. A close friend and a few of my family members just love to give advice in everyday conversation, and I am fed up. They are so keen on telling me what to do that they will even suggest how I should have handled events that already happened. How should I deal with this?

D. Y.

A. I’ll never forget rocking my colicky baby at the farmers’ market and having a scowling stranger rush at me to advise, “You should try feeding him.” Oh, that’s what you’re supposed to do with babies? Who knew?

Unsolicited counsel can trigger reactions ranging from gratitude to feelings of inadequacy to anger, as in my example above. The quickest fix? Be direct. Say, “Thank you for trying to help me, but I might have given the wrong impression. I’m not actually looking for advice.”

You might also consider tweaking your own conversational style. Sure, it could be that your nearest and dearest are busybodies, but maybe they’re just looking for a way to connect with you. Friends and family may be naturally inclined to offer guidance if, say, you tend to do a lot of venting or complaining. And, honestly, even if that’s not the case, you’re less likely to be offered unwanted suggestions if you steer discussions toward inclusive topics, like current events, as opposed to personal subjects. (Sorry to give so much advice. But you did ask…)

Catherine Newman

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