“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.”
— Andrew Carnegie
These days, it seems everyone has an opinion on just about anything. I do not have a problem with people expressing their thoughts on a particular topic. I have a problem with people who think that just because they have advice or an opinion about my life, they have the right to share it – and, assume I actually want to hear it. The only thing that matters is the vision I have for my life. Other people’s advice, comments, or opinions will not stop me from growing or succeeding.
Just a few years ago, this would have been hard for me. I used to be a co-dependent people pleaser. I wanted people to like me. I enjoyed helping others. I still do, but I try to help only when asked to do so. When the urge strikes, I remind myself it is not my place to point out flaws, assume a problem exists, or that I have the best solution. I’d rather offer encouragement and support – what I want to receive in return.
Through trial and error mixed with painful experiences, I learned it’s best not to offer unsolicited advice. It is unfair and unrealistic to presume I know what is best for another person. It is impossible to know someone better than they know their true self – no matter how convincing the thoughts in my head may be. So, I stop and think before sharing advice or opinions with others. Instead, I try to plant a seed, offer a gentle nudge – then gauge whether or not the person responds positively. I understand the importance of running my own race – while allowing people I love to run theirs, too.
A couple of days ago, I spoke to a friend about how my blog is creating a lot of buzz. I was excited to tell her about what I’d accomplished since we last saw each other. Surprisingly, she shared her vision for my life (for the second time or more in a matter of months), saying I should focus on the positive. By the way, she has never visited my blog. My friend accused me of being defensive when I stood up for myself. Seriously? She doesn’t have the right to tell me her vision for my life, then control my reaction to it.
I’m never sure how to handle unsolicited advice. Next time, I’ll try to remember this tip from Jill Haseltine, professional actions coach and founder of Deliberate Nation and say: “Thank you for always giving your advice, but there are things that I really want to figure out on my own. I like figuring things out and when I need help or advice I’ll be sure to ask.”
Are there people in your life who talk a good talk, yet fail to walk the walk?