As soon as the words flew out of my mouth- I wished they were attached to a cord so I could pull them back in like a rogue kite.
No such luck. Instead, they flew out and attacked like one of those battle kites in “The Kite Runner.” It probably would have been less bloody had the words been tipped with broken glass or needles. Instead they dripped with criticism. Poison that can wreck relationships.
Were the words harsh? No. Just the normal Mom stuff. (And wife stuff, and friend stuff-and leadership stuff….I am guilty of giving unsolicited advice-way more often than I care to admit.) Was I wrong? No. The problem is…… I gave advice that wasn’t asked for. Otherwise known as: criticism.
I meant well. I was TRYING To help. Except, I didn’t. I hurt someone I care about. And I probably hurt the relationship. Not my goal.
The thing is: I know better. Because I’ve been on both sides of this fence.
When someone offers me advice that I haven’t asked for- I hear an underlying criticism. “You should think about changing your hair color” sounds like:”I don’t like that hair color- this one would be better.” ”You’d look thinner if you wore_____” sounds like: “You look fat. ” Maybe you should try leading like this….” Sounds a lot like: “You’re a terrible leader.” Criticism.
Helpful. Maybe. Sometimes. Right? Maybe, so. It can also damage relationships. Someone who’s always offering unsolicited advice (criticism) is probably not the person youre going to turn to when you feel vulnerable and need input.
After recently being both guilty of and victim to “advice.” I wondered: What would happen if I stopped giving unsolicited advice ?
Honestly- the idea makes me feel the beginnings of a panic attack. My mind reels:
“But, I’m a mom. I know things. I’m even (sometimes) right. If I ignore things, people won’t change.The world would be better if people did things my way…..and did I mention- I’m right?”
Some part of me feels like I’m the advisor to the universe. Like I have a responsibility to share the wealth of my knowledge.
If I am- why does it so often go ignored at best, often unappreciated and sometimes, cause hurt?
Maybe the rest of the world feels like unsolicited advice is criticism, too.
So what can we do when we see something we’d really like to “advise” on?
1) Pray it- don’t say it. Pray if there’s something you see in someone you love that may need to be addressed. It’s amazing the opportunities God can create- and how God can help us change our opinions about our role as “advisors to the universe.”
2) Listen when advice is asked for. Answer the question- don’t look for a way to squeeze in your own agenda. (When someone asks for advice about a pair of jeans- it’s not the time to advise them about their hair… I call that: pork-fat advising. Like the government, only more personal. Build trust by sticking to the advice asked for.)
3) Prioritize relationships over rightness. Ask yourself: Is this person doing this the RIGHT way (aka: mine) worth potentially losing the relationship for? Will saying this this help build relational trust- or crush it? Choose your response based on whether it’s worth losing trust to confront an issue. (Sometimes, it is.)
- Do you experience unsolicited advice? How do you handle it?
- Do you often give unsolicited advice? How is it received?
- Is there a particular person- group of people who’s advice really rankles your cankles? (Yes- I just said that… it rhymed. This needed a rhyme. Are you criticizing me in your mind? Whatever.:P)
Dear Lord- help me to pick and choose when to give advice and when to be quiet. I know that unsolicited advice feels like criticism… even when I’m just trying to be: helpful. Help me to prioritize relationship over rightness, help me to listen and help me to pray. I love you lord- amen.
When I pick and choose when to “advise” in my relationships- I find people more apt to respond and listen. Maybe unsolicited advice is like yelling- the more you do it the less is heard.