Unsolicited Advice :: An Unpopular Opinion

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Unsolicited advice has gotten a pretty bad reputation in the last 5-10 years or so, and I totally get it! As mothers, especially, it’s so exhausting to constantly be getting a stream of advice that oftentimes is contradictory from one source to another. With the influx of information at our fingertips, it can feel so overwhelming. There are a million and one “good idea fairies” roaming the world wide web and they ALL have the secret to this or that. Shoot. Even this blog post is essentially designed to do the same—share my thoughts and advice to moms in the Birmingham, Alabama, area.

I’ve been a mom for almost 17 years now. I have experienced motherhood with and without the internet in my pocket 24/7. I’ve received “unsolicited advice” from complete strangers and close friends, both on the internet and face to face.

So, I have four thoughts that might just be new to you.

If this has already ruffled your feathers, consider skipping to number three before you click away. It might just change your perspective. And if it doesn’t? Thats ok.

While there is much that could be said to the advice-givers, I’m focusing my attention on the receivers. I’d also like to make a distinction between two categories of unsolicited advice. There is the internet kind (what you’re reading now), and the in-person kind (real world situations). When I talk about unsolicited advice, I’m going to really focus on in-person advice. But, I think it’s important to make a clarification because the internet kind is what makes us exasperated with the in-person kind.

Virginia Schultz Photography image of Birmingham Mom and son in a field
Image by Virginia Schultz Photography

1. It’s a kindness to listen.

When someone is giving their advice, the motivation behind it can give you SO much insight on how to respond. Much of the advice I have received in my lifetime has been from people that truly care. I might completely disagree with what they are saying but I can see and feel the kindness in their intentions even if it’s a complete stranger.  While the topic of conversation might be about my problem they think they are solving, I’m actually helping them feel loved and valued just by listening. How powerful is that??!!

So often we focus on ourselves and what will best serve us that it blinds us to the needs of others. I’d personally prefer to listen in love and feel like I’m helping, than sulk in my own victimhood. And honestly, unsolicited advice is an embarrassingly major first world problem to get in a fit over. Lift the bar. Lift each other.

2. It might just change your life.

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of ways my life has improved just by listening. This might vary from personality to personality, though. Some people might feel extremely insecure in their knowledge as a mother and need to safe guard the sources of information they receive. But for the rest of us? There is a plethora of wisdom from moms who have done this before.

If you are a Christian, this is actually a biblical concept. Older women are instructed in Titus 2:3-6 to teach younger women. And taking it to a broader audience, Proverbs 11:14 tells us that “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”  I’ve gained so much wisdom just from listening (and sometimes ignoring!) unsolicited advice.

3. It’s okay if you ignore it.

Listening is not the same thing as accepting. You are in charge of filtering the information you receive, not others. Let me say that again for the people in the back. You are in charge of filtering the information you receive, not others. You don’t have to do everything people tell you. Did you know there is no such thing as the advice police? No one is checking up on you to see what advice you’ve accepted and what you’ve ignored. With the way we talk about and think about unsolicited advice, I’m really beginning to wonder if people realize this.

Is it annoying to hear advice that you don’t like? Sure. But again, we have become SO self focused as a culture that I think we’ve completely missed the mark on loving others. A lot of times (and I mean a LOT of times) loving others requires sacrifice.

4. Unsolicited advice is unavoidable.

We are ALL guilty of giving unsolicited advice.  Period.  I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone say they don’t give unsolicited advice followed up with a piece of advice. Advice isn’t always obvious. It doesn’t always sound like “let me tell you a piece of advice. . .”  It is quite often merely sharing something that you like, a new discovery, or even a universal truth. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language describes advice as an “opinion about what could or should be done about a situation or problem” or information communicated. I bet you didn’t realize that any time you relay information to another human, you are giving your advice! The entire concept of not giving or receiving unsolicited advice is quite literally impossible, unless you hermit yourself away and never communicate to another human ever again!

My aim here is not to get everyone in the world to boss you around and tell you how to live your life. Nor do I want you to just plug your ears and ignore all the information that comes into your life. I’d love to just encourage you to think a little outside the box when it comes to what is the current socially popular idea. I want you to really advocate for your own wisdom even if that means lovingly listening to a lot of things you might have to ignore.

So, next time you see that friend that always likes to tell you what to do and how to do it, consider the kindness of patiently listening. It might just change your life. And if it doesn’t?  That’s okay, you might just change theirs.

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