Unsolicited Advice

Unsolicited Advice:

Why do we hate to receive it? 

Why do we love to give it?

"Hello, my name is Jill and I am an advice monster. I was that jerk you used to confide in who would immediately interrupt and tell you how to fix  your problems."

For pretty much my whole life I genuinely believed that I gave unsolicited advice out of the most selfless and altruistic intentions. I thought I was giving said advice because I cared about people and wanted to help. Because after all, I was a good person, dammit. 

But was I really?

A couple of months back, I was sharing a very personal and painful struggle I was (and am still) having with a good buddy of mine.  I let myself be vulnerable and opened up to her about how much I hate that I can't watch "The Big Bang Theory" on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. She, like I always did to others, started immediately giving me advice. She said things like: 
"You should watch it on television---you  still have that antenna in your garage right? You should buy the DVDs, you should get cable...blah, blah, blah."
As she was giving me this unasked for advice, my arms started itching and my chest tightened. Then I realized what was happening: I was irritated! (Yes, I am evidently not that self-aware.) 

I recognized that my friend's advice was irritating the heck out of me. My inner dialogue then turned into something like this:
"Where does she get off supposing she knows more than me? Why should she get to tell me what to do? I already know about all those other options she is describing! I'm not an idiot Brenda! Does she think she's smarter and better than me?"
And that's when I had a life-changing realization. Humans are bizarre animals. Our ridiculous egos rule our lives more than any of us realize. My ego was totally offended by my friend's unsolicited advice. I shared my story, not with the desire to have her fix my dilemma, but to vocalize my inner turmoil. I wanted someone I trusted to share my burden. And yes, it is totally illogical to share problems with another person and NOT want their help. But that's the complexity and mystery of humans. Sorry world, I can't fix people.

After our conversation, I went back to my desk and pondered. I thought back to the times people shared their burdens with me. In most, if not all, cases I ended up giving those poor individuals a boatload of my unsolicited advice. I realized that my need to tell people what to do was not based on compassion and selflessness after all, it was based on the opposite. 

My stupid insatiable ego (whom I refer to as Shirley) is always seeking to prove that she is smart and knows stuff (she is super insecure). 

When someone Shirley respected and admired shared a problem or frustration with her (aka, a weakness perhaps?) she saw an opportunity to get her fix. If she could solve said issue, she would feel smart and superior, and thus feel better about herself.

In Shirley's mind, after she articulated all her wonderful advice, she assumed that the recipient would think:
"Wow, this woman is so smart. She totally solved my problem. What would the world do without her wisdoms. She should run for president." 
And that's how Shirley gets hers.

The advice I gave was really all about me; it was not about helping my wonderful friends. I had the audacity to assume I knew more about my friends' challenges than she/he did.

In an attempt to validate my new realizations, I did some internet research on this topic (thanks psychologytoday.com). It turns out nobody wants unsolicited advice; no matter how right it may be. The human ego takes another well-meaning person's offer to "help" as an overture that presumes the person being "helped" is instantly inferior to the person doing said "helping." 

We love to give unsolicited advice because it helps us feel superior and thus less icky about ourselves. Conversely, we hate receiving unsolicited advice because it makes us feel inferior and more icky about ourselves.

Humans are bizarre animals. 

As a recovering advice monster, I am continually working on keeping my ego in check. I continually remind myself to listen to understand, not to advise. Wish me luck on my recovery.


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