Unsolicited Advice Is A Mental Health Issue

Shannon Ashley
Mar 17 · 4 min read

The other night, my daughter and I saw a movie with my friend and her two little girls. My friend debated which size soda to buy for her daughters to share.

A woman in front of us turned around to chime in that my friend ought to buy the “kids box” that came with popcorn a drink and the snack. Neither my friend nor I had any interest in that option because we were getting free popcorn anyway.

For whatever reason, the woman kept insisting it was the best choice. My friend is a school teacher and had plenty of reasons for not wanting to get the box, but the stranger in front of us decided to explain how kids carry lunch trays every day... in school.

It wasn’t the end of the world. The woman finally got her food and we made our box-free order just fine. The whole situation was silly, but ultimately, no skin off our backs despite the lady’s strong insistence.

Women are more likely to receive unsolicited advice than men.

Let's face it--we women get this shit every damn day. We get it from men and from other women. It is somehow widely accepted in our culture that strangers have a right to tell women (especially mothers) what to do.

It extends from really mundane choices to serious, genuinely life-changing decisions. It doesn’t stop at the food we choose in a movie theater. Strangers dole out unsolicited advice about motherhood, careers, marriage and personal appearance.

When it comes to the people who dole out unsolicited advice, no topic is off-limits, but it’s women who are getting the brunt of all of it. You can read about gendered difference of advice in this Penn State study.

Some folks think you ought to be grateful for unsolicited advice, but the experts disagree.

I often see fellow writers preach the message that all unsolicited advice is good for you. They choose to take it as a form of constructive criticism... But how can that be? All advice is not created equal, and experts say that unsolicited advice is some of the worst.

Why? Unsolicited advice has a tendency to come across as pointed criticism. People on the receiving end wind up feeling anxious and overwhelmed. They may second guess themselves as a result. In the long run, unsolicited advice often does more harm than good.

Unsolicited advice is often a power play.

Last year, researchers showed that people are motivated to provide unsolicited advice to others because it makes them feel more powerful.

Are you surprised? Most of us who hate getting unsolicited advice mainly hate how coercive it feels. Exactly like a power play.

Advice givers often have terrible motives for “helping.”

According to researchers, people give unwanted advice for many different reasons. Sometimes, people do have pure motives and truly want to help.

However, there are many more toxic and even sinister motives behind unsolicited advice.

On the less helpful, but not terrible side? Some people “need” to feel needed. Some offer advice when they feel helpless about a situation. And then there are others who offer advice simply because they’re sick of hearing about a certain subject.

There are of course, worse reasons for giving unwanted advice like narcissism, the desire to establish dominance, or to pass judgment. There’s even the desire for drama.

When people offer advice you didn’t ask for, it says much more about them than you. Many of those reasons for giving advice should be dealt with for their own mental health.

Unsolicited advice is a mental health issue.

That means there is an appropriate response. We must set and enforce boundaries to ensure our lives are not run amok by the pressure and stress of advice we never asked for.

No, it isn’t a good idea to accept all unsolicited advice as “constructive criticism.” That’s a one way ticket to Stress City. Listening to all advice that comes your way can be downright dangerous.

Today, I received some unsolicited advice from a man telling me what I could do in the future to not get raped. Mainly, don’t be alone with a date.

That, my friends, is some shitty unsolicited advice. All it did was shame and blame me for my own assault while leaving the rapist “free” of wrongdoing because I supposedly messed up and put myself into the situation.

You don’t need to sacrifice your mental health for unwanted advice.

As much as I love and respect my readers, I still need boundaries. We all need boundaries. Writers don’t owe it to their readers to just keep taking in advice as if it needs no filter.

Filters matter.

Boundaries matter.

Mental health matters.

Please don’t feel guilty if you struggle to accept unsolicited advice. Don’t feel bad for rejecting it. Advice givers need to learn how to ask individuals before offering up their take in the first place.

    Shannon Ashley

    Written by

    Single mama, fulltime writer, exvangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. Top Writer. http://www.patreon.com/shannonashley

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