Unsolicited advice is the best kind of advice that you can receive.
I was speaking to a friend about how sensitive people can be when it comes to suggesting alternative approaches to parenting. It really is remarkable.
Make a suggestion about the best way to teach a lesson and your fellow teachers will come back for more and more.
Offer a golf tip and you can become a hero for life.
Proffer a fashion tip and win your friend’s undying gratitude.
But recommend to your friend that he or she feed their baby a little more or remove the television from their child’s bedroom or consider a more aggressive approach to sleep training and you risk possible disembowelment at the hands of an enraged parent. How can a confident, knowledgeable, reasonable person suddenly turn to mush, or worse, a raving lunatic, when questioned about a parenting decision? It seems to me that the worst mistakes a person can make is with their children, so why are so many people so resistant to a little advice?
My friend, the mother of two, explained that it’s the unsolicited advice that’s despised the most, but this is where I believe people go wrong.
It’s the unsolicited advice that often proves to be the most valuable.
If you’re looking for advice (thus soliciting it), then you know that you’ve potentially screwed something up, and you’re therefore likely to find a solution with time. Hell, Google will probably save you if your friends cannot.
But unsolicited advice only comes to someone who is screwing up but hasn’t a clue. This is the most dangerous kind of mistake, because it’s likely to perpetuate again and again until someone stands up and says something.
Yet because people disdain unsolicited advice, it’s difficult for people to say anything. And when thoughtless, insensitive types like myself offer unsolicited advice, thinking that they are doing a friend a favor, they are often castigated for their effort.
So for all my friends and anyone else who wants to get in on the action:
I hereby proclaim my desire for all unsolicited advice. I may not agree with you, and I may not adhere to your suggestions, but I’m not going to cry if you tell me that I’m screwing up. I won’t become angry, depressed, defiant, or pathetic in the face of your recommendations. I’ll listen with the most open mind that I can muster, ask questions when appropriate, and maybe even test your assertions, and then I will thank you for your willingness to take a risk and potentially help me out.
I may tell you that you are wrong, but I’ll say it with love.
Just for the record, the mother of two mentioned earlier in this post also accepts unsolicited advice without complaint. She’ll listen, consider, and decide for herself, but she won’t bite your head off or slip into some insecure funk when faced with a suggestion.
Refreshing if you ask me.