Do a lot of your conversations consist of people starting sentences with, “If I were you, I’d…” or “I think you should…” without you asking for it? And then do they continue with a lengthy list of suggestions and how they would go about whatever it is you’re doing, leaving you stuck as a captive audience listening to things that would never work for you or things that make you question the path you’re on?
Don’t worry- this is common, especially when you’re starting a business, looking for a new job or launching your own business. (And other aspects of life fo’ sho- believe me, people had a TON of suggestions for me all those years I was dating and looking for Mr. Right).
I would say this is a common theme among many of my clients and one we spend a significant amount of time working through. Many times it’s a casual acquaintance or business contact and other times it’s a central person in your life, making it harder to grapple with.
So, how do you deal with the constant barrage of unsolicited advice?
Remember where it’s coming from. i.e., a good place. I would say the vast majority of people who want to provide advice about your career or other aspects of your life only mean good stuff by it and want to provide a perspective. Maybe they went through something similar and they are putting a one-size-fits-all solution on your issue. And be aware- there are probably situations where you’ve done the same thing. I know I have, and remembering that helps me keep the this-will-never-work-for-me advice in perspective.
Interrupt. Yes, I said cut ‘em off. If it’s a litany of advice that’s going on for quite awhile, It’s ok! But there’s an ok way to do it without being rude. You can say something like, “Can I stop you right there for a second? Something you said sparked something in me.” This shows them that you’ve not only heard them, but you’re also listening and processing what they’ve said. Then you can say something like, “I considered that but it won’t work for me because of X, but I thank you for the thought”
Be Gracious. This may go without saying, but thanking the person for their thoughtfulness and time goes a long way toward preserving the relationship, whether it be a business contact, friend, or family member. You don’t have to go over the top, because in reality, you may want them to stay out of it, but starting with a simple, “Thanks for your perspective” will show them they’ve been heard. And without something like that, they may press on with the advice giving.
Be Open. Some of the best ideas come from bad ones. Maybe the suggestion you’re getting is so off the wall for what would work for your business, job search or career change. But maybe a kernel of what they’ve said sparks another idea in you, which gets built upon, which in ultimately gives you the grand idea you were looking for all along! Yay! Make a point to consider different ways of packaging or thinking about what the person has said and maybe even jot a couple of notes in your notebook or phone after the conversation or meeting and save it for later. I’m not saying to go down the rabbit hole of every idea that comes your way, but approach thinking about it lightly and asking yourself the question, “What about their idea or suggestion COULD work for me, if anything?”
Be Clear. These do-gooders could think you want this advice all the livelong day if you’re not clear. Be clear IN the conversation that while you appreciate the advice (See “Be Gracious” above), the idea(s) won’t work for you or your business but . It could be that the idea would be great for someone you know doing a job search or someone in another industry. So a script could look something like this:
“Can I stop you right there for a second? You said something that sparked a thought…I so appreciate the advice, but it’s not going to work for my business because print costs for that are too high to be worth the investment for my industry, BUT I know my friend who is a lawyer would LOVE to hear this idea.”
Now, maybe you’re past this level of diplomacy and politeness with your well-meaning aunt, for example. I got one thing to say about that: that’s a wholeeeee other post, people.
What tactics have you used to acknowledge and move past well-meaning unsolicited advice that is not useful, gets under your skin or just plain annoys you? Have you tried anything above with success? Leave your comments in the section below!