Thoughtful Thursday: Unsolicited
May 6, 2010
#16: Wiseguy from Woman Anyone?
#12: Photogrl from Not the Path I Chose
#10: Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#7: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#6: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#5: Stacie from Heeeeere Storkey, Storkey!
A few days ago I spent time with a handful of people at the home of a new baby and her parents. At one point, the husband chastised his wife for having left the baby in the bathtub earlier in the week. She defended herself that it was only for a minute to run upstairs and get an article of clothing.
My husband and I, two of the least judgmental people around, both had the same internal reaction:
What the hell is wrong with you?
Before we could say anything, someone else in the group chastised her. “You really shouldn’t do that. You can’t leave her alone in the bath for even a second.” When she tried to explain herself, he reiterated, “You cannot ever leave a baby alone in the bathtub.” I think she got the message. I hope she got the message.
If that fellow hadn’t spoken up, I’m not sure what I would have done. People ask me for advice often, but unless I’m asked, I don’t like to give unsolicited advice. There was a clear safety issue in this case, but even so, I’m not in the habit of walking into someone’s house and telling them that they have done something horrible. The fact that the husband was calling her out in front of other people indicated that he knew she was wrong, and perhaps he was trying to garner support in an effort to convince her. In a way, he was soliciting advice on her behalf.
Part of the reason I don’t care for unsolicited advice is that it tends not to go over well. People are rarely receptive. It also creates a dynamic where the advice-giver seems to be acting superior, which is no fun for anyone. Furthermore, in many cases unsolicited advice isn’t even correct or helpful. The people who give the most advice seem to be the ones least qualified to do so.
The exception to my rule about not giving unsolicited advice is my mother. Although she often protests, she has also expressed appreciation that I “talk some sense into her.”
With DH, I have gotten less and less bossy over time. Sometimes I ask him to do something or I give him tips for optimizing efficiency or improving technique — how to put on a diaper to prevent leaks, or how to cut the core out of an apple without throwing away too much edible fruit. Recently he thanked me for the way that I gently offer constructive suggestions. It’s only taken me a decade and a half to perfect.
What is your stance on giving unsolicited advice? In what situations do you give advice that people haven’t asked for, and when do you keep your opinions to yourself?