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On giving unsolicited advice

marcitkomarcitko Veteran
edited November 2023 in Sanghas

Hello everyone,

I think this should have been something that I should have resolved ages ago, but I have not, so here is an open question to everyone.

Is it appropriate to give unsolicited advice? I've recently come to believe that it's not, but am curious what you think.

I frequently find myself giving unsolicited advice. Even while I'm giving it, I cringe internally, chastise myself later, and from experience feel like this does not do much or any good.

Should I just stop?

Seems to me, when people actually ask, and of all people ask you, that's a whole other situation in which advice-giving and experience-sharing can be actually suffering-lessening.



  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yes. But it's so hard when people you love are mad at YOU, because THEY'RE stupid. I'm so tired of having to pussyfoot round people who clearly have no clue, because being intelligent is also being made to shut up as a minority voice.

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited November 2023

    I can only take so much of the ‘I want to vent, be heard, accept no advice person’ ….it seems every group…friend or family…has that one who is always in crisis and wants the petting, the validation of feelings, without doing any damn thing to change their situation. No, I dont want you to emotionally dump on me, then say im wrong for offering insight or another perspective. If you know me well enough to dump then you also know I speak frankly, am a very straight shooter, and yes, will listen to the details, in order to help. If you want a spoonful of sugar, I’m probably not your person. That doesn’t make me wrong, insensitive, or pushy. And telling you the truth about your situation( as I see it) …isn’t disrespectful. And yes, I’m open to receive what I give. 💯

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    Some sage advice passed down through the ages that can help.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Skilful means can be employing a loud voice, sometimes. But more often not.

  • If you’re cringing inside, are you able to discern how they’re reacting?

    It’s been my experience that when a friend opens up to me, they usually want the human connection, the sharing of experiences and feelings, not a lecture on what they did wrong. I’m the friend, not Dear Abby. And if they specifically solicit advice, I usually find it more helpful to say how I interpret the situation, rather than issue instructions. Much more helpful. Overview and perspective are often what’s missing when someone is in a “situation.”

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited November 2023

    I don’t think the OP was asking HOW to give advice….i think it was whether you should give it at all. If I know a person is not interested (based on previous venting sessions) in solving an issue or getting out their crisis jacuzzi, ……..I politely nod, and half ass listen. Why? Venting and emotional dumping can be unhealthy for both parties. Yes, I’m your friend…I can relate when it applies, share my experience or tools….but I’m not a therapist/Monk/life coach. If one continues to make bad choices, Right Effort and Right Action needs/should be applied. If this person becomes someone I dread being around, due to the dumping….i will then bend my neck to avoid them. If it’s an occasional spill by an associate or someone I’m occasionally around…I listen and offer no advice. It’s their life and we’re all trying to figure it out.

    Skillful venting and the human connection:

    Now that this is a full on Sanga meeting…who brought snacks???

  • Skillful means is to shut up and go with the flow, and let time settle things down. Also, karma works in mysterious ways. Give it a try and be kind.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I never feel the need to vent my feelings, does that make me odd?

  • Chilled dude :)<3

  • @federica said:
    Yes. But it's so hard when people you love are mad at YOU, because THEY'RE stupid. I'm so tired of having to pussyfoot round people who clearly have no clue, because being intelligent is also being made to shut up as a minority voice.

    Despite being a minor stupidity, I am more than happy to listen to, give or provide evidence that everyone who takes a side is not practising a Muddle Way. Like what I does in my latest podcast ...

    Of course, I am a Buddhist extremist. Here are some more clues:

    • Opinions v FAQs ... and how to not be bothered by either ...
    • I nose what I knows ... You too? Let's swap sides ...
    • Better odd than even, nobody wins an argument
  • This is not a clear "Yes" or "No"
    Circumstance, your relationship with the intended recipient, mental or emotional state of both giver and the receiver must be weighed.
    What makes it dangerous ground is the fact that, when given, it is when the intended recipient is not in the mood to receive advice not asked for.

    As @federica brought out, in different words, you are potentially walking through a minefield, treading upon egg shells.
    Having set off a few mines and broken my share of egg shells, my advice is, if you insist, proceed with utmost caution and wear a flameproof/bombproof outfit.

    Other than that, not a problem :pO.oB)
    Or as my dog would say, SQUIRREL!

    Peace to all

  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Sentient Being Oceania Veteran

    On giving unsolicited advice

    Take my advice...I don't use it anyway...

    Any advice I might offer others must be the same advice I would take if I found myself in a similar situation to those whom I advised....

  • Here is me giving advice on deliberate and slight pain infliction (on ones self)
    Exactly as @Shoshin1 says. Provide for others what we have found useful ...

  • Tee hee! The above link is not the one I meant to post. This is the right one ...

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    OK, since you ASKED...
    When people communicate openly, they're being vulnerable. When a relationship is egalitarian in nature (as opposed to mentor/student, etc), what the other person is looking for is someone who will listen to them and understand their perspective. Opening up to a friend is generally an attempt to regulate one's emotions and bring the nervous system back to a place of homeostasis. This happens when the listener listens, without judgment, without challenging, and exudes empathy.
    Even if the speaker HAS asked for advice, they'll receive your input far more openly if you begin by listening to them and validating their feelings and perspective.

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited December 2023

    Has anyone read the article I posted? I’m interested in thoughts on it.
    What kind of venter are you? Chilled dude excluded, hahaha
    Myself…not necessarily chill…but I usually keep personal business to myself AFA friends or family. Same reasons the article mentions. I do vent when it’s major…usually to hear my own thoughts play out and goal is get to a Game plan by the time I’m done the steam… I’ll find psychology or Buddhist POV’s on the framing I’m having a problem with or things like that. I also try to exam behavior patterns or things I need to change that are causing the upheaval

    What is this need of validation as it pertains to advice? I’m confused. If your life is a cluster fuck or you having a huge problem….you want me to validate what, exactly? Like the article says…your audience matters. Maybe I’m not the one to understand your perspective…or give empathy for your particular situation. The responsibility is not only on the listener. Communication is more complicated than that.

    ETA: OP, can you give us an example of what you were talking about? When did/do you give unsolicited advice? To whom? About what? You also mentioned the cringe? Does that usually deter you next time? Or you just can’t help yourself giving the unsolicited advice even after it’s the same person or the same situation? Or you just can’t help yourself period? What do you think that cringe means?

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited December 2023

    Has anyone read the article I posted?

    No! =)

    I only give advice, I hardly ever take any … AH HA! Think I may have discovered where I am going wrong … :open_mouth:

    Maybe I am not just bad … but positively evil >:)

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Vastmind said:
    What is this need of validation as it pertains to advice? I’m confused. If your life is a cluster fuck or you having a huge problem….you want me to validate what, exactly? Like the article says…your audience matters.

    Validation, in this context, is shorthand for "whether or not I agree with you, your feelings and perspective are important to me so right now I'll give you the space to express them without judgment or criticism." It establishes a feeling of cooperative safety and trust. You don't have to do it, especially if those things aren't important to you. As I understand it, the first priority of right speech is to avoid making things worse, followed by trying to make things better. Saying "that sounds stressful" or "I'm sorry you're going through that" doesn't, to me, feel like an imposition when it can have a calming effect on the person speaking to me. That's all validation is.
    For example, if you said to me, "it's silly that people want their feelings validated when they complain to me about their situation. I'm not the person to give them that." I would say, "I hear you. Sometimes it's hard when people expect things of us that we're not ready to give them." Validation.

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited December 2023

    Gotcha. I agree the “heard” is valuable to the connection. That was a good explanation of it.
    A good example, too. That being said…It’s not that ‘I’m not ready’…( putting the burden/fault again on the listener) I was ready…at first…then several times after that…In fact, I was ready with help….as the article says…it’s that my sensitivity has ran its course, for various reasons. Reasons worth looking into….by the constant venter and the listener…..let’s look at both sides.

    I presented the other side in an attempt to discuss how to keep things healthy.. IMO…people don’t self reflect enough on being the venter. That’s all.

    I Guess there’s no snacks.. 😏

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran
    edited December 2023

    @Vastmind said:
    …It’s not that ‘I’m not ready’…

    The "not ready" bit was a little presumptuous embellishment on my part due to the limitations of a message board format. 😉 I would have preferred to first ask you questions so that I actually understood you better. I appreciate you giving me grace regarding that. In fact, I didn't even read your earlier post, which would have clued me in to your actual perspective. Oops! Since i missed the post, I didn't read the article until just now. I'm so grateful you posted it, and I hope others take it to heart. It's an expanded version of what I was getting at.
    I'm definitely not always successful at being the best listener. It's the part of "right speech" that's often the most challenging for me: recognizing the moments when my words don't add value.
    This thread feels, to me, like the broader topic at hand is right speech - and holy hell that's a tricky one. At least it is for me. Alas, my poor little ego has yet to be dissolved and I tend to be reactively defensive. That's the feeling that's happening when I wish someone would just stop complaining and save it for their therapist. I grew up in a family where everyone was competing to say the funniest, or smartest, or most profound thing. It was like living in a Reddit topic thread. People were "debating" all the time. But, that didn't help my social skills with peers, and I got a reputation as a self-righteous and arrogant communicator. When I learned that was how people saw me, I was crushed. Unfortunately, my parents didn't have any idea how to guide me through that. They played up my feeling of being a victim, essentially saying my critics were haters.
    So now, when I find myself in a conversation that I think I have some insight on, or one in which the context suggests I'm obligated give an opinion or take a side, my nervous system puts my body in a state of danger-awareness that's two-fold: I feel driven to prove myself like I did in my family growing up, and simultaneously fearful that doing so will cause people to think I'm an asshole. My core muscles and neck muscles tighten, I lean forward, my shoulders sort of bunch up, my heart beats faster, my breathing quickens, and my brain starts spinning in order to both prove my worth and defend it from being undermined. It's an adrenaline rush!
    This is when the body-awareness cultivated in vipassana helps me tremendously. When I notice the tension I take deep diaphragmatic breaths to loosen my stomach muscles and slow my heart rate. I slowly roll my shoulders backwards and down. I make sure I'm not clenching my jaw. I relax my forehead and eyebrows. This whole thing doesn't take more than a minute or two unless I'm already agitated. Then, when I've convinced my sympathetic nervous system that I'm not in danger, I'm enabled to keep my mouth shut and be a good listener. Then, maybe, I can be a tacit yet helpful example of a nervous system in homeostasis.
    Thanks for reading. I love you guys.

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited December 2023

    You’re welcome. Thanks for sharing such a detailed breakdown. Yeah, I got the ‘right speech’ feels as well. There’s a recent thread on that, if I’m not mistaken. That’s the hardest for all of us, I think =)

    MD, you say?? My kin came south from Aberdeen, back in the 40’s. We’re all good, cousin. ;)

  • I've been following along with great interest. Thanks everyone for your comments and for guiding this discussion in such an interesting direction.
    Since this post is long, here is my tentative conclusion for now: what people really want is to be heard and understood, which relaxes them and thus makes them more sane. It is good that this is our main focus as right speech beginners. Advice-giving and commentary has its place, but is an activity that can backfire or just be annoying, and is thus an advanced play.
    I was asked above, I think by @Vastmind, to provide examples for my OP. Now that I'm more observant - I notice myself (and others) giving unsolicited advice nonstop.
    My father talks about the news with renovating his flat. It's a big job, it's important, I feel some responsibility to be helpful, he is old and could use the help, and I feel practically obliged to comment on what he's saying with advice. This one never worked well, he always rejects my advice, and I think the options I provide just make him anxious. So I've practically stopped and just try to listen, but feel strange while doing it, as in 'what's my task while he's talking?'
    My friend tells me about his marital problems. I like them both very much and see their problems as problems between people, not with either of them as people, so there should be a relatively easy way to improve the situation. My brain and mouth go into overdrive trying to find a solution to better the situation. Here too, I think my friend was not looking for advice, but just someone to share his troubles with, since it's an intimate topic which is normally not shared with many people.
    But there are examples which worked. My mother tells me about a conflict with a colleague which spiraled out of control. She is very angry and cannot sleep. I guide her to see the perspective from the coworkers angle and to see that if she's hostile to the coworker she'll get hostility back. She understands, sends a conciliatory message, and lo and behold, they make up, the coworker was angry and could not sleep either and honestly apologises too. (My mother is very conflict-happy so I take this as a great success).
    Also, I was asked about why I cringe inside.
    With the examples above that did not work, I feel like my words were unskilful since they did not lead to anything good, at best they were neutral, and probably I was just slighly irritating my interlocutors.
    Even with the successful example with my mother, I feel bad about influencing another. I cannot predict everything, maybe even nothing, so what if my action causes unforeseen turmoil in the future? For instance, if I do this a few times, and make my mother more aggreable, what if that's not what she really wants, what if I exorcise her angels together with her demons? How do I know that making her more aggreable is a good thing for her? I think so, but how do I know?

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    I think there is an element of wisdom involved in knowing when to do which actions. The more we step into the current moment rather than being so led by rules or habituated responses, the more we are able to emotionally read the situation and respond skillfully. This isn't an intellectually learned ability, it is skill developed slowly through meditation.

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