A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog post on my daughter’s birth. What a joy to share that story. In that blog post, you might remember me talking about “unsolicited advice.” Like you, I get a lot of that. And, unfortunately, like you I also give a lot of it. Makes me wonder what actual good advice really is… What about you? Let me clarify what I mean by “unsolicited advice” and why we should refrain from giving it.
If I had to give unsolicited advice a definition it would be this: advice given with no relational context with the one giving the advice or receiving the advice. It’s the “free stuff” we give out to people thinking they are just dying to know our opinion or advice on any subject.
When advice is “ok”
For me these days, I’m very cautious about who I give advice to and when. In fact, I normally wait until someone asks. You may be surprised how little that happens. But when it does, it’s because the person asking trusts you. Rather, we should focus on building trust equity in relationships instead of offering free advice.
I’m also cautious on who I allow to give me advice. As I mentioned in that last blog post, when people found out we were having a child, literally EVERYONE offered some piece of advice. Some of it was good I’m sure, but most was not. These days, the only people I allow to freely give advice are those who have relational equity with me. They are invested in me, not just interested in my life.
These people also know me well enough to preface their “free advice” and when to just listen. Advice is typically welcomed in the context of a loving relationship. Not always. I know that there have been times when I needed to hear some advice but my pride kept me from being open to it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we should prioritize the relationship over being heard and airing our opinion. For me, this is a daily recognition that I’m no gift to humanity or an endless vat of knowledge. I’m broken and learning along the way. Relationships are what matter to me. And it’s out of those dear relationships that I have found the best advice in life I could have asked for. Even if it’s something hard to hear.