Unsolicited Advice: Everybody Hates It, Even Your Children

Unsolicited advice makes people feel irritated, criticized, and controlled.

Think about the last time you received unsolicited advice. How did you respond to it? Were you grateful and thankful or did you become irritated and offended? If you are anything like the majority of the people on this planet, you felt irritated. When we hear people give unsolicited advice, we feel as though we are being criticized and as though our freedom is being threatened.

People give advice out of love and concern.

More often than not, unsolicited advice comes from the people who are closest to us. This might be your family members, your partner, or your friends. Naturally, any advice that comes from the people who love us most comes from a place of love and concern. If they suggest that you do something differently, they do so because they believe they are helping you or making your life easier. However, even when we know this, we still get irritated.

How do we respond to advice which is meant to protect us from harm?

It is worth noting that unsolicited advice is welcome when we are being protected from dangerous or life-threatening situations. Nevertheless, Peter Gray Ph.D. notes that even then, people prefer to just receive information about the possible dangers without unsolicited advice. That is, by informing someone of the risks of a situation, you might convince them to change their mind; however, if you were to advise someone not to do something because it is risky, they might feel as though their freedom to decide for themselves has been taken away.

Why do we dislike unsolicited advice so much?

Peter Gray Ph.D. explains that people perceive unsolicited advice as ‘one-upmanship, or assertion of dominance, or criticism, or distrust, or failure to consider our own unique goals and priorities’. More importantly, he stresses that it makes us feel as though we lack freedom because unsolicited advice resembles control. It follows then that people dislike feeling as though their spouses or partners are trying to control them; similarly, teenagers feel irritated by the unsolicited advice of their parents as they also view this as an attempt to control.

Instead of giving advice, try to provide information.

As much as we dislike being given unsolicited advice, we also like giving it. We constantly advise our partners, friends, and children to do things our way because it seems safer, easier, or more logical. What is more, we get upset when our advice is ignored or dismissed. So, what should we do? First, remind yourself how you feel when you are offered unsolicited advice. Then, instead of telling them what they could do, try to provide them with information regarding the dangers or risks they might face. Upon hearing this, they will either change their mind on their own or they will come to you for advice! Peter Gray Ph.D. comments on this as he writes, “The more you refrain from giving unsolicited advice, the more likely it will be that your children will ask you for advice when they need it and will follow that advice if it is reasonable.”

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