Dealing with Unsolicited Advice – How to Pretend to Listen

Don't Care Edited

Unsolicited advice, we’ve all gotten it, and most of it sucks.  Here’s the thing, he who speaks the loudest is usually the most wrong.  If this is someone who is not close to you, you can smile, nod, and move on.  What do you do though when this is a close friend or worse, a family member?  Even worse than that…a family member who has never been there, and has no idea what the hell they are talking about.

In my experience, you will get the most advice from parents who have never been divorced, people who are not parents at all, people who were divorced 15+ years ago when moms still automatically got custody, or those who just handle things poorly.  This last group simply serves as an example of what not to do.

What happens though if you hear something and it sucks so bad that you cannot imagine what you would ever use it for?  I still use the smile and nod.  Never, ever underestimate the power of the smile and nod.  People want to believe what they want anyway so let them insert their own interpretation.  I further use, “Wow, that’s interesting, I never thought of that.”  I never thought of that because your idea blows and nowhere, in the history of ever, would I use that…but they don’t have to know that.  Will Rogers once said, “Diplomacy is the art of saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock“.  At least I think it was him, but you get it.  You see, you have enough to deal with.  Pissing off Aunt Titsenflopper from Wisconsin that you see only at weddings and graduations is unnecessary.  Just send the Christmas card and let her think she was incredibly helpful.

Here’s the thing, people like this do not actually give advice to help you even though they tell themselves they are.  They give advice because they want to justify how they handled a similar situation.  You choosing to take a different path makes them insecure.  They feel it is a reflection of them or that they handled it poorly when faced with something similar.  Others do it because they think they are superior.  They are explaining to little ‘ole you how you should handle it because God knows, you couldn’t figure it out without them.  Some just do it simply because they are soul sucking, miserable people, and want you to be too.  These people can be identified because they give advice when you don’t actually have a problem.  You’re fine, you didn’t ask a question, and don’t need help, but you’re suddenly on the other end of a lecture.  These are unhappy people who are actually threatened because you are not.

So smile and nod.  Paraphrase so they think you were listening, and then just continue along as you were.  No one has to know.  You’ll avoid burning bridges in case that person one day says something insightful you can actually use.  It’s so cute when I’m optimistic, right?

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