Last Updated on August 15, 2023 by Angela Vaz
Have you ever had someone give you unsolicited advice?
You know, the person who means well but who can’t resist telling you what to do even though you didn’t ask for their input.
I’m sure someone’s face popped into your head while reading this.
Maybe they feel they know better than you, or maybe they just want to feel important.
Whatever their motivation, unsolicited advice can be hurtful, frustrating, overwhelming, and downright annoying.
Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
I’ve dealt with this a lot in my life.
And many people experience this frustration on a daily basis.
It becomes increasingly difficult when it comes from someone close to us like a family member or friend.
It can feel like they don’t respect our boundaries or really understand our situation.
And it can be hard to respond without causing tension and conflict.
In this post, I’m going to share some tips on how to handle unsolicited advice in a way that empowers you.
We’ll discuss why people give unsolicited advice, how to respond politely when you receive it, and how to draw firm boundaries.
I’ve been in your shoes, so I’ll also share my own experiences.
Let’s get started.
But before that really quick, get my free guide on how to really reset your life.
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What does unsolicited advice mean?
Unsolicited advice is when someone gives you their opinion (and goes so far as to tell you what to do) without being asked.
It’s like someone butting into your business even when you didn’t ask for their input.
For example, if you’re having a genuine problem and you’re talking about it, but someone starts telling you what you should do to solve it, that’s unsolicited advice.
It is incredibly frustrating because they might not even take the time to understand your situation, respect your boundaries or consider your feelings.
They just go on “blabbing.”
Unsolicited advice can come from your partner, a parent or teacher, or even a friend.
It’s difficult to deal with it when it comes from someone you are close to – that’s why I’m writing this post.
Why do people give unsolicited advice?
Living so many years around people has made me realize why people do what they do, and honestly, it can be due to several reasons:
- They genuinely want to help. But they don’t know how to help or feel that they are being kind by telling you what to do
- They feel they know better. At the end of the day, they are only hearing what they want to hear. So, they assume that they know it all when they hear a bit about it.
- They are controlling. People who have always gotten their way, are in the habit of dominating most situations. So, this becomes second nature to them and they give unsolicited advice everywhere.
- They want to boost their own self-esteem. They may suffer from low self-esteem and by constantly giving their opinion (even when it’s not wanted), they feel better about themselves
Most people do it for their own personal gain. They don’t realize that they are hurting you or are being extremely rude and controlling.
This is why it is best to approach this situation with an open mind – this will help you deal with unsolicited advice more calmly.
13 polite ways to handle unsolicited advice (without losing your cool)
1. Take a deep breath and stay calm
It can be very infuriating when someone talks over you or pretends to understand your situation when they clearly don’t.
I know. I understand what you feel.
But realize that they’re not doing it to hurt you.
99% of the time, this person is just built this way, it’s a habit they can’t control.
And many times, they feel this advice is helpful.
You may want to get defensive or angry. But reacting this way may escalate the situation and the relationship can turn sour.
So, take a deep breath, stay calm, and try to approach this situation with an open mind.
2. Remember that you are in control
My mom would always tell me, “It takes 2 hands to clap.”
Oh, how right she was!
When 1 person is being extremely ignorant or rude, the other should be mindful and polite.
That’s how you diffuse a situation and solve a problem.
Getting angry or upset is truly not going to help.
I know, because I’ve tried.
Ultimately, you are the one who decides what advice to take and what to ignore.
Just because they’re telling you what to do, doesn’t mean you’re going to do it.
You have the power to make your own decisions and you don’t need to justify yourself to anyone.
You are your own person.
You choose who to listen to.
3. See where they are coming from
Before you retort back, take a moment to think about who this person is and why they’re telling you what they are telling you.
If it’s a parent, it’s usually out of care and concern.
I know because my dad gives me unsolicited advice all the time.
If it’s not about my food or outings, it’s about my finances or life.
It becomes very difficult to talk to him about everything because practically everything leads to unsolicited advice.
If you have a parent who is this way, you’ll have to realize that the advice isn’t coming from a bad place.
Our parents genuinely feel they know better than us and they feel that they’re helping us find our way.
It doesn’t come from a place of hate.
So, you need to ask yourself, if this person is someone you trust and respect. Do they have experience with the situation you’re dealing with? Are they saying these things with love?
If not, then just take their advice with a pinch of salt.
4. Listen politely
If the person is older than you and you really do not want to burn bridges, listen politely for a while.
Especially if it’s someone you need to work with or someone you look up to.
It doesn’t matter if you want to take their advice or dump it far away, it’s important to listen.
This shows respect for the person and their intentions. And it will help you diffuse the situation.
5. Ask questions
If you feel that this person is giving you unnecessary advice or you really want to understand why this person is giving you advice, then you can ask questions to understand their motivation behind this.
Be very polite and ask with an open mind and heart.
You can ask questions like,
- Have you been through this before?
- How did it feel?
- Can you tell me more about why you think that would be a good idea?
Ask open-ended questions that will prompt them to share more about their thoughts and feelings.
Be very respectful and ask questions in a non-confrontational way.
Don’t dismiss the person’s opinion even if you disagree with it.
See if this leads to a thought-provoking conversation.
I remember asking my dad why he would give me so much food-related advice.
And he told me, “Your mum never listened when I advised her about her health. She took it for granted and she ate whatever she wanted. In the end, she got cancer and it cost her – her life. I don’t want that to happen to you. I care for you.”
And I realized that every bit of unsolicited advice came from a good place.
It led to a deep conversation and even though the unsolicited advice was irritating, I knew better now.
At the same time, set boundaries.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable with the amount of unsolicited advice this person is giving, you can say something like, “I understand. That’s helpful. I’ll consider everything you’ve said and I am going to take a decision myself. Could we change the subject?”
This tells them that you’ve listened but you’re done listening.
This is you telling them gently that you’re done listening.
6. Say thank you
It doesn’t matter whether you plan to take the advice or not.
It’s always polite to say thank you.
This acknowledges the person’s effort to help you and it will help you maintain a positive relationship with this person.
By saying thank you, you are being polite.
7. Consider the advice
In certain situations, I felt that the advice was painful or not relevant at the time, but later, after deep thinking – I felt that the advice was good despite how it was delivered.
Some people can be rude when they’re giving advice. They can also say it in a way that makes you less appreciative of them.
For instance, I have an aunt who will always give unsolicited advice about dating. She would always tell me to take it easy and not trust people too easily.
She had been through a rough marriage herself so I realized what she said definitely made sense.
So at the end of the day, listen with an open mind.
Ask yourself questions like,
- Is there any truth to what they are saying?
- Is this good advice?
- Are they saying it from a place of concern? Have they been through what I’m going through?
- Is this going to help me? Is this something I can follow?
Consider the advice even if the person isn’t very likable.
If you feel there is something useful or relevant in what the person is saying, you may want to incorporate that into your decision-making process.
8. Set boundaries
Please understand that it’s never wrong or rude to set boundaries.
It doesn’t matter if this person is your parent, relative, friend, boss, or teacher.
Setting boundaries is healthy and nobody should gaslight you or make you feel like you’re being rude or dismissive.
It simply means you appreciate their concern but you’d prefer to make your own decisions.
So, how do you set boundaries?
9. Be assertive if they aren’t getting the hint
Let’s say, you’ve tried all of it.
You’ve said thank you, you’ve said you’ll consider their advice and you’ve said that you’re not comfortable and would rather talk about something else but they continue to poke and prod.
In that case, you can raise it up a notch.
How do we do this? By using “I” statements.
That way, you’re still not being rude or mean, you’re simply stating your views.
So, you can something like, “I appreciate your concern, but I prefer making my own decisions.”
Don’t beat around the bush. This person obviously isn’t getting the hint if you’ve tried the polite route – so it’s time to get straight to the point.
Use a confident tone – this means speaking in a matter-of-fact and strong way.
If you’re still keen on being polite, you can express gratitude while drawing boundaries. So you can say something like, “I really appreciate you trying to help, but I prefer to handle this on my own.”
Remember, being assertive doesn’t mean you’re being rude or aggressive – it simply means you’re communicating your boundaries in a clear, confident, and respectful way.
So, don’t let the gaslight you into thinking you’re being rude.
10. Change the subject
Most people are quite accommodating and get hints when their unsolicited advice is not being appreciated.
But a few won’t.
They may push even harder or circle back to their advice repeatedly.
In this case, do the next best thing – change the topic.
Talk about the weather or the food. Sometimes I’ll talk about something that I know will bring up multiple follow-up questions.
For instance, you can talk about the whole hybrid work-from-home or talk about a recent event in your locality that is the latest outrage. It will shift their focus and they will want to talk more about it!
I have found that discussing a common pain point is the best way to shift the person’s focus.
For instance, when a friend’s colleague was giving me unsolicited advice, I knew that he struggles with the Bangalore traffic. So, I immediately commented on how difficult it was to get anywhere with this traffic. And he didn’t hesitate to jump on that and discuss how horrible the traffic is.
11. Use humor
I do not like conflicts of any kind. I’m a people-pleaser and I do struggle with laying down boundaries.
So, I often use humor to deflect unwarranted advice.
For instance, you can say something like, “Thanks for the advice, but I think I’ll stick to my own bad decisions for now!”
So, think about how you can slowly change the topic or end the conversation in a very light-hearted way.
You can use mild sarcasm (if this is a friend) and say, “Golly, I never thought of that before!” or, “Wow, now that’s an idea!”
If the person means well, I’ll just say, “Aye aye, Cap’n!” and salute them.
It’s a fun and effective way to maintain a positive relationship with the person while also setting boundaries.
Just remember to make sure that the humor is appropriate and not offensive.
12. Seek support
If this is something that you’re dealing with on a daily basis, you can talk to someone you trust.
For instance, when I found out that my ex was cheating on me – I got unsolicited advice from everyone.
Everyone felt like they had the right to comment on my relationship and tell me what to do or how to proceed.
I was already in the middle of a messy divorce so I was handling things my way. It was hard to listen to everyone talk about my relationship and dissect it bit by bit.
So, talking about your experiences to someone you trust can help you process your emotions and come up with a plan for dealing with them.
For instance, I let it all out to my therapist. I even told my mom.
And they really made me feel better.
13. Remember, it’s always okay to say no
At the end of the day, you need to realize that it’s you that’s living your life.
This means that you deal with all the repercussions of your decisions – nobody else.
So, you get to decide what advice to take and what to ignore.
If someone is giving you advice that doesn’t feel right, it’s always okay to say no. And there’s a way of saying no without feeling crappy.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your decisions and actions.
None of these tips include explaining your situation to them or trying to get them to understand your story.
I genuinely feel when people give unsolicited advice, they really don’t want to hear what you say. And that’s okay.
As I said earlier, it’s better to diffuse the situation than get into it with them.
At the end of the day, you should do what you feel is best.
It’s your life and you owe no one anything.
So, listen to everyone but do what feels right to you.
Here are some more posts that you may find helpful:
- How to give yourself grace when you feel low
- How to stop thinking about someone who hurt you
- 9 ways to say no to people without being rude
- Why and how I stopped overexplaining myself
- How to get over heartbreak when you still love him
- How to stop missing your ex when it hurts so much
- 11 warm and comforting books to read during difficult times
- How to rebuild your life after losing everything that matters
- How to go out alone as a woman (safely and comfortably)
- How to go out alone when you have anxiety
- Why does no one understand you? What to do about it?
- 9 reasons why friends come and go (this will make you feel better)
- 33 ways to become a nicer person
- 23 ways to let loose and be yourself
- How to stop overanalyzing everything and calm down
- 11 practical ways to stop letting things bother you
- 19 benefits of being yourself
- 13 easy ways to be mentally present every day
- 15 Easy Ways to have a Fresh Start in 2023
- 13 genuine ways to make every day count
- 35 honest ways to get your life together
- How to drastically simplify your life