YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!
By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: My friend has advice for me on every subject, even when I don’t ask for it. How do I politely tell her that sometimes her unsolicited advice is best kept to herself?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Take the good advice with the bad. Clearly she cares a lot about you. I would leave it alone.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Maybe your friend is in parenting mode — for elementary-school-age kids — and can’t quite get out of the habit. Parenting thrusts us into advice-giving mode even if we weren’t always that way.
I realize that’s an assumption, but I know several people who are like this of various ages and in various stages of parenting, and I try not to let it bother me, even when it does. I know the people care about me, and I try to take two tactics with it — 1. Agree with them so forcefully and wholeheartedly that they have nothing else to say on the subject, so you can move on and do what works with you, or 2. Tell them that you have it covered and would appreciate it if they would stop doing it. Your friend may not even realize that she’s doing it. Sometimes we all accidentally offer unsolicited advice in our areas of expertise or because we’re in the habit of doing so in another area of our lives. I have to try to keep it in check sometimes, too.
HELEN’S ANSWER: Sometimes when you are talking, advice from the other person just pops out, so try to accept your friend’s words graciously, or don’t share topics with her if you think she might give you free, and unwanted, advice.
A wise man once told me, “don’t trust anyone who tells you what to do since they really do not know what you should do,” so I try my best to remember that when I start dishing out advice. I really don’t know what anyone else should do and I need to listen more, talk less.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Yvette Walker, The Oklahoman Night News Director and University of Central Oklahoma Media Ethics Chair: Sometimes, people want to be of help to friends when all they really need to do is be a good listener. They don’t know their “help” is really uninvited or even taxing for their friend.
You have a few choices here — one being to stop talking to this person. Assuming that isn’t what you want to do, when the person begins to give advice, simply say, “I’m sorry, I don’t need advice, but thank you. What I really need is your friendship, shoulder of support and for you to be a good listener.”
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.