Have you ever gotten unsolicited advice? I’m sure you have. You probably get it a few times a day. It can come in many forms and from many different lips.
Sometimes you say, “Huh. They are right. I need to change some things.”
Sometimes it’s not what you wanted to hear but you know it’s what you needed.
Sometimes it’s just plain bad advice.
How about getting advice from someone who hasn’t been anywhere close to what you’re going through and talks in a very matter-of-fact kind of way? That’s the worst. You tune them out faster than I can change my radio when Jason Derulo comes on.
Advice is thrown around like towels in a dryer everyday. It makes us feel good to give our insight and opinions. The thought that we have answers to someone else’s life makes us feel better about our own lives. There is a bug in all of us that enjoys watching people worse off than ourselves. How else do you explain the success of The Jerry Springer Show?
We can refer to it as a bug, or we could just as easily call it what it is—Pride. We all have it. If you think you don’t it’s because you’re too prideful to see it in yourself. (Oh snap! You just got bit… Sorry, that was my pride talking.)
Believe it or not, your friends most likely don’t need your unsolicited advice all the time. When people are hurting and upset they don’t need your lips, they need your ears.
I remember vividly the three years I spent job hunting right after college. I tried everything. Every job search website. Every career fair. Every networking event. I redid my resume dozens of times. I was doing it all. I was constantly trying my hardest to find work in a terrible economy.
And wouldn’t you know it, people wanted to give me advice without me asking for it. They’d say really stupid things like, “Have you set up an account on Monster.com?” I’d think to myself, “The #1 job search engine in the world? I’ve had an account on there since day one. Do you think I’m an idiot? You must.”
If you’ve ever been job hunting you know there are some really low times after all the rejection you face. The last thing I wanted was someone telling me I needed to do better or act like I wasn’t trying hard enough. I was giving it my best. I snapped on a friend of mine once and suddenly yelled out, “Why is everyone so quick to give me their advice and no one is quick to pray for me?”
My experience taught me a hard truth. I didn’t want advice. I just wanted people to tell me they loved me, they believed in me, and that I’m not crazy.
I talk with a good friend of mine all the time. We’re kind of in each other’s business about everything whether we’re invited into it or not. You know how it goes.
We both have our own issues, events, and vices. We’re definitely 100% on each other’s side, but when you talk that much it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re talking. Sometimes I forget that I’m dealing with a human being who has feelings and not a puzzle that needs to be solved.
It became a problem at times and I couldn’t figure out why at first. Tensions were high and feelings were hurt. And then I realized that it was because I wanted to give my advice before I wanted to listen. That’s a bad combo move. As I stated before, people usually just want you to listen, and if they want your advice then most times they will ask you for it.
My friend and I have developed a method called “House or Uncle Jesse?” It’s as weird as it sounds, but it’s effective.
If he starts talking to me about events or issues and I find myself wanting to throw my two cents in, I stop and ask him, “How do you want me to respond? Do you want House or Uncle Jesse?”
If he says “Uncle Jesse” then I just listen to him talk. I ask more questions. I say things like, “Oh man, that’s rough,” and “Are you doing ok with it all?”
Sometimes he really wants my opinions and he’ll say, “All right… House.” And I hit him with my thoughts and personal advice from whatever I was able to analyze and put together.
I know this sounds really stupid but I cannot begin to tell you the good effects it has had. Simply asking, “How do you want me to answer?” will go a long way in your friendships.
I try to keep these things in mind in all of my conversations these days, and I’ve really noticed a change by simply just asking.
There’s wisdom in a mouth that can remain shut. People don’t need your advice first; they need you to listen. They want to know that you love them, you believe in them, and that they’re not crazy. In fact, I’d bet that’s what we all want.