“You should really make sure your kid is wearing a hat, it’s windy out there…”
“You and (your partner) really should start having a family soon or it may be too late.”
“I can’t believe you bought a new car, don’t you know that used cars are a much better deal?”
“That’s why you shouldn’t bring tired kids to the grocery store. They should be in bed.”
“You seem stressed, maybe you need a massage. Here is a card for a guy who is really great.”
Isn’t it frustrating when an in-law, a stranger at the grocery store, or even your partner offers you advice on how to handle a problem that you felt you: a) had under control b) wanted to handle by yourself, or c) didn’t think was a problem at all?
Unsolicited advice can be particularly challenging when the advice-giver is someone you know and will have to encounter again—you worry your response could be taken the wrong way, that they’ll judge your character, or talk behind your back if they disapprove.
Maybe the advice came after you began to vent about a challenging situation in your life and you just wanted someone to listen. Or, perhaps you weren’t even discussing a problem and someone felt the need to chime in with their observation and two cents about what you should do. You’re feeling annoyed and irritated and your gut reaction may be to tell the person how unhelpful they are and that you have it all under control. This certainly won’t help you achieve a more favorable opinion from the advice-giver. Another common response is to engage in the conversation by explaining why you handled the situation in the way that you did, and before you know it, you’re defending yourself, giving more negative energy to a situation that is not going to be helpful to you.
What can you do to respond in a way that is both assertive and respectful? Here are a few ideas:
Sara Kind-Michels, MS, LPC, LMFT
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