I am pretty good at my job. I have many years of experience and I make decisions based on knowledge, data and instinct. I was in a relationship once, where we both worked for the same company. Ironically, our desks were only separated by a short cubicle wall. He could hear all my conversations, whether they stopped by my desk or called on the phone.
On several occasions, he commented on the way I handled interactions. I am very energetic and outgoing. I also make it a point to get to know the people I work with. I am genuinely interested in their family life and hobbies. I like to laugh and have a little fun.
So he would say I wasn't being professional or that people were not going to take me seriously simply because I would carry friendly conversations and laugh at the office. He was clearly quite the opposite from me. He was serious, grumpy and often combative with people.
I would get really annoyed at his comments and would often end up fighting with him, asking him to stop offering advice unless I asked for it. He continued and he always had an opinion… I got the sense that he felt superior and smarter than me by always having something to say.
I think all of us have received or given unsolicited advice from time to time. And for the most part, it is well intentioned and comes from a good place. But constant advice-giving is simply annoying.
I did some reading on the topic, in one article in Psychology Today, Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Seth Meyers outlines why people give unsolicited advice. He observes that alpha type people are most often advice givers. He notes that they tend to:
Be rigid in the way they approach life;
Have a grandiose sense of self;
Lack the awareness of their motivation.
Other researchers point to a need for emotional validation and personal power as another reason people offer advice. They suggest if someone engages in this behaviour constantly, it may be a result of growing up in an environment where expressing their emotions was punished or ignored, leading to a need for emotional validation. They may seek to deal with uncomfortable feelings through external validation.
In the Feisty Mermaids podcast - the best self improvement podcast! - I share a few stories about unsolicited advice. I also share how setting boundaries is a good place to start when dealing with this issue. By setting boundaries, you are in control. It was extremely insightful to read the book, Boundaries: When to say yes, when to say no to take control of your life, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It’s helped me set firm boundaries in so many areas of my life.
It also helped me see the times when I was the one giving unsolicited advice. I didn’t think I was guilty of it, but I was. Lots of it in fact!
So now I make it a point to ask someone I am having a conversation with if they would be open to my advice. I’ve learned it is better to give someone the option of hearing what I may have to offer than just saying it. If they set a boundary, I don’t dwell on it. After all, we all have a path, and honestly most of us don’t listen to advice anyway and end up learning things the hard way!
I would love to hear stories of unsolicited advice! Comment below :)