There is someone related to me who always has some sort of “you should” comment for whatever I say. It would nice to be able to be close to this person, but their need to know and subsequent criticism has made it very unsafe for me (and the remaining relationship). So I did tell this person how I felt belittled and even demeaned by the impression they convey of how I am an imcompetent twit who only makes bad decisions or cant make decisions. The open conversation solution worked for about two minutes as far as their interaction style, but I felt better enough about myself after to be able to stick to the weather and not resent this person.
Filed in my “change yourself because you can’t change the other person” folder.
As someone who’s had to deal with “unsolicited advisors” in my family and my social circles, I am not sure that I agreed that all I did in a conversation is complain. I could be sharing the happiest news of my life and still receive advice on what I should do now to make things even better. Also, I’ve gone the “how about this weather?” route, and I’m not a huge fan. I still use it when I have to, but that just means I can never have a meaningful conversation with this person again even though I want to maintain our relationship.
How about being responsible for what I say that triggers those suggestions? Don’t mention problems. Don’t share annoyances. Stick to all the hundreds of things that are awesome in my life and talk about that. Also, LISTEN more and ASK more questions.
No, it still doesnt work.
I know people who see everything as a complaint they need to fix. I could say, What a gorgeous sunrise this morning and they’ll respond, You shouldn’t have looked out the window! You could hurt your eyes!
Some people are pushy buttinskies, but some people’s personalities mean they like to solve problems. If you’re telling me about your situation in a what-should-I-do way, I am going to offer advice, unless you tell me, “I’m just using you as a sounding board here.”
Years ago I went through a professional Training Programme, and I came away with a few life-changing understandings:
1. Offering an easy fix (i.e., unsolicited advice) to someone else’s problem indicates that you think you can fix a difficult situation after listening to a problem for 10 minutes. It’s not respectful of the hours and days of wrestling the person has spent on the problem already, and more often than not, snap advice offers an “obvious” but unworkable solution.
2. Are you planning to take responsibility for the outcome if someone takes your snap advice, especially if it doesn’t work out as predicted? The person themself will have to live the consequences, so they’d best make the decision themself.
Easier said than done, aint it?
For me, hearing somone continually moaning about an issue while doing nothing to fix it feels like watching a toddler trying to fit the square peg into the round hole and screaming in frustration. I do adjust when my friend requests a simple sounding board, but at some point, please stop asking me to be your partner in this conversation.
Some “Unsolicited Advice-Givers” are also subtle, manipulative “fishers”…they get their self-worth from fishing for other people’s problems, sometimes without even asking the person directly (they ask others what is going on or go through other’s things). People like this use other people’s problems as a way to avoid dealing with their own. Their closet has more skeletons than anyone else because they are too afraid to deal with their own problems first—then when they are called out for being meddling, play victim, whining about how they “try so hard and noone is grateful for their help”. No—they are just upset that they have nothing better to do than face their own demons. (For the record, I have a family member like this, who I’ve had to try to avoid as much as I can for decades because of this unhealthy obsession with this person wanting to fight other people’s battles).