I’ve had migraines for a long time. Like, since I was in elementary school. As you can imagine, I’ve tried a lot of treatments, from over-the-counter medications, to prescription meds, to meditation, chiropractic, massage, supplements, binaural beats, tapping, progressive muscle relaxation, gluten-free diets, keto, paleo, yoga, breathwork, crystals….
…and yet, without fail, every time someone new learns I have migraines, they get excited and ask “Have you tried…???”
Yeah, I’ve tried that. Thanks for the unsolicited advice.
Is there anything more annoying and off-putting? Probably. But if you’re looking for a way to have someone ignore your advice and perhaps pointedly not take it, you can tell them how best to conduct their life when they haven’t asked for your opinion.
I know. You want to help. You desperately want to help, and you just read this article that said that the best way to – STOP.
Here are the reasons why your unsolicited advice is so annoying.
1. We’ve already tried it.
If your burning advice is in regards to someone’s longstanding predicament (like my migraines), chances are we’ve heard it before, tried it, and it didn’t work. Being reminded of this just brings up the annoyance of yet another thing not working and makes us more likely to snap at you for “trying to help”.
2. We’re just venting.
Work sucks. Traffic was terrible. The coffee maker broke on your way out the door again. These are all things that can have you steaming and looking for a sympathetic ear.
But do you need to be told to look for another job? Or to try an alternate route? Or to upgrade to a coffee maker that costs more than $10? Probably not. You know these things already. And hearing them come out of someone else’s mouth is infuriating, because you know already. And you know that you know. It’s probably an issue you’ve been dealing with for some time and are either too stubborn, too scared, or too stuck in a routine to do something about it.
You’ll get there. But in the mean time, having someone who will just listen is a huge comfort, isn’t it?
3. No one asked you.
I know. It’s harsh. But if you’re not directly in someone’s conversation and you butt in to provide your (unasked for) opinion, that’s just rude. Let people have their own experience unless they’re directly asking you for yours.
So what do you do when you genuinely have some information you think may be beneficial? What if you heard about a new study that just came out, or a job opening that could solve all their problems, or have had that exact same experience and you really, really want to help!
“Hey, can I offer some insight?”
“I’ve been through that too, would you be interested in some advice?”
“I just read something about that, would you like my input?”
Asking if the other person even wants your advice in the first place does two things – it gives them a chance to say no if they weren’t looking for help, and it makes them more receptive if they do want your opinion.
Oftentimes, people do want advice, but having someone spew their personal opinion at your face like it’s their job is off-putting.
That’s where this becomes a two-sided thing – if you are the person looking for advice, ask. And if you’re the person lending the listening ear and have something to add, ask.
Skeptical? Think this is silly and that I’m overthinking it (oh hey inner voice)? Try it for yourself. See how much better people respond to you, and how much they appreciate it, when you ask for permission to give advice.