I recently made a post to my Facebook profile, “I shall no longer give unsolicited advice. Apologies to anyone that I’ve done it to in the past. #ItsAnnoying”. The post has far more likes than comments, but in the comments there was some confusion, so I thought I’d expand here.
Don’t invade someone else’s space and regurgitate advice they did not ask for. Regurgitate is the best word I can think of, because it feels like someone threw up all over you.
After experiencing it a couple times recently, I realized I’ve done it more regularly than I’d like to admit, and have even ruined friendships because of it.
Often you do it with the best intentions in mind. That’s one of the most deceptive parts of it. In your mind you’re thinking, “How can it be wrong for me to say if it’s the truth?” But, no matter how truthful, it likely won’t be well received because of how it was presented.
You might be thinking, “Hey, you’re giving me advice I didn’t ask for right now.” The difference is that you’re in my space. I’m not forcing you to hear what I have to say. You chose to read this, and you’re free to leave any time you like. The problem is when you’re an uninvited guest. Being someone’s friend, acquaintance or co-worker does not necessarily mean you’ve been invited to give advice.
There are some relationships where it’s your duty to give advice. When people have invited you into their life in a position where they expect and require you to advise them, it’s fine. Think pastors, mentors, bosses and coaches. Just don’t assume that because you have invited someone to be your mentor they’ve also done the same to you.
However, even when it’s your duty you can’t assume your advice is welcomed. Parents, grandparents and teachers have a duty, but haven’t necessarily been invited to give advice, so establishing a level of trust and respect is important, or unsolicited advice can still feel like an invasion.
From a marketing and sales standpoint it’s similar to a sales cold call. It may work sometimes, but the leverage is all wrong. The immediate thought of most people who answer the phone and hear an obvious salesperson on the line is, “I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want to talk to you.” The response to unsolicited advice is the same.
The only difference from a business perspective is that even if you annoy 97% of the people you call, the other 3% who you end up gaining ground with can be profitable and thus worthwhile. However, there are often other ways, such as inbound marketing, to reach those same people and have leverage much more in your favor.
This is an issue many religious people struggle with. They are so excited to share their truths with others that they descend on them, give unsolicited advice and create a scar that gets assigned to the religion, not just to the person. Similarly, dog lovers know that just about the only thing on this earth that could love you more than you love yourself is a dog. But, if your first encounter with a dog was of it barking, growling or biting you, you’d likely assume it’s best to avoid every dog.
If like me, you also struggle with this, I encourage you to read the book of Proverbs in the Bible. It frequently mentions how a wise man is in control of his tongue. A much more wise approach than giving unsolicited advice is learning to ask good questions. Through asking questions, you can often lead someone to the desired outcome and they’ll even feel like it was their idea.