Opinion: Well Intentioned (yet unsolicited) Advice

Have you ever had that one, or dozen, of friends who insist on serving up heaping portions of advice that you didn’t ask for?

Friends are important and I would never diminish the effects of having such people in our lives. They are sounding boards for ideas, helper in decision making, and just an all-around hoot for those times when you want to joke around and have a good time.

However, as friendships mature, the boundaries can become blurry to the point where it appears that no subject is off limits and that when the unsolicited advice creeps in.

Unsolicited advice is that which is offered, but not asked for, and is usually extended in the spirit of “it’s in your own best interest” or “I’m going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear”. Advice, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. However, there are (at least) two circumstances where advice can work against us:

1) The Advice being offered doesn’t take into account individual circumstances.

2) The Advice goes beyond personal boundaries and interferes with an individual’s personal goals, preferences, and intentions.

Here are a few examples that will make #1 and #2 more clearly understood:

Example 1: I have a number of friends who are in relationships and for some reason, cannot fathom why I choose to live single and unattached. I work a day job, pursue a writing career, and basically have no time for the trials and tribulations of dating in the Modern Age. I feel no sense of loss over it, yet in every conversation it is impressed upon me that I MUST be lonely because I don’t have a girlfriend or wife to share my time with or I am somehow incomplete because I am alone. How can you be lonely if you are comfortable with yourself AND can make friends simply by going outside and being incomplete without having another person is simply ridiculous because there is a whole world out there for things to fill up your time. You don’t need another person to do that for you. Of course, the logistics of this are never covered, just the perceived appeal to emotion.

Example 2: I am pursuing a writing career. This involves a lot of time being alone, working some less than optimally paying jobs, and sacrificing sleep and something of a social life from time to time, in order to write my stories. Those are some of the circumstances that we as creative professionals deal with on a daily basis, but it’s a calling more than a career, so we learn to deal with the ins and outs of it. Granted, the natural inclination for those who care about us is to suggest things that may improve us materially, but do more to pull us off our chosen path and keep us from moving forward. I won’t call these people Dream Killers, by any means, but they don’t realize with comments like “What will you do for money?” and “You’ll be so busy writing that you won’t have time for us” that they are applying undue pressure to something that we already know is going on.

Don’t think that I’m against advice. I’m just not a fan of advice that I didn’t ask for.