(a public service announcement)
I get it. I’ll even raise my hand and sheepishly admit that I’ve done it... more than once. You hear a friend struggling, or see a post on Facebook, and think to yourself, “I’ve got something to say and it’s going to be really useful.” You just want to help! You have ideas to share and opinions to give, so you open your mouth, or get on your computer, and let it out.
“Just enjoy these moments.”
“You should try drinking lemon water every morning.”
“Don’t worry, this too shall pass.”
Ahhh…..all your good intentions are out there now. Nobody asked you for it, but you’ve done your part.
What you need to know is that your unsolicited advice at best is landing on deaf ears, and at worst is pissing people off. That’s because unsolicited advice sucks. No matter how great your intentions are, lobbing semi-spiritual sayings or random suggestions at people (that they very likely have already considered or already know about), is annoying.
But since I know you’re probably going to keep doing this because you really do just want to help, here are some ways to make it less shitty:
Tip #1 - Did they ask for advice?
Read their comment carefully. Does it say anywhere in there that they are looking for advice and suggestions? If yes, go crazy. If not, zip it.
Tip #2 - Assume they already know
Whatever your perspective is on the topic, assume they’ve considered it. Whatever neat trick you’ve tried and it worked for you, assume they’ve already tried it. Because 9 times out of 10, that’s the case.
Tip #3 - Change your language
If after considering Tip #1 and #2, you still feel strongly compelled to share, change your language. Take out any condescension and add in some ownership. For example, “You should do lots of squats” would become “I’m sure you’re already doing this, but I found doing lots of squats worked for me.”
Tip #4 - Consider your audience
Do they have kids? Then they have probably researched and considered all of their options when it comes to picky eating and what to do about it. Do you know them to be someone who is quite self-aware? Then they probably don’t need to hear how they should be grateful, or just let things go.
Assuming that you know what’s best for someone else, especially with limited information as to what they are going through and how they are feeling, is a mistake.
Tip #5 - Check yourself
What is the real intention behind you adding your two cents? Seriously, check in with yourself. Why are you posting/saying this? Is it honestly to help the other person, or is it an ego trip?
Also, what’s your relationship like with this person, and are you an authority on this topic? Advice lands best when it’s coming from someone we trust and respect. If you’ve been studying this topic for years, or you have a close, connected relationship with this person then you are in a much better position to have at ‘er.
Tip #6 - When in doubt, ask
Unsolicited advice is only shitty because the person doesn’t want or need it. You can avoid all of the shittiness by simply asking, “Can I share my thoughts on this with you? I’ve been through something similar and have a few ideas that might help.” If they say, “No thanks” then be respectful and keep it to yourself.
Your good intentions only count if they have a good impact. Keep this in mind the next time you feel the need to say anything.