See the Judge in You, Note the Grudge in Others

  • Unsolicited opinions are never welcome. Most of the time even if the situation doesn't warrant it, we offer our opinion on a platter.
  • Before we open our mouth to say something, do we ever take a step back and think through exactly what we are going to say?
  • We should consider our tone and make sure of our word choices so that it leaves little room for misunderstanding or trouble.

Do you love to tell people how to live their life? There is no dearth of family, friends, colleagues, even magazines websites offering plenty of advice about what you should or shouldn’t do. How you should (or shouldn’t) eat, drink, dress, exercise, shop, vote, believe (or not believe). Shannon. L. Alder says, ”often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks.”

You must have surely come across chronic advice giver’s suggestions– often gratuitous and unsolicited– these people typically betray a powerful need to prove to themselves that they could deal with your difficulties better than you could ever be expected to. They also indicate that the length and breadth of their intelligence, knowledge and comprehension is generally superior to yours. Sean Covey, says in The 7 Habits of Effective Teens, ”Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up”?

Sometimes a well meaning person wants to help you but wonders how you will take it.

My snooty snot cousin barrels down my street in her new Mustang, shows off her dresses from Nordstrom, flaunts her solitaire diamond ring and scornfully looks with distaste at the clothes I bought from Marshalls or Ross, telling me that I should improve my taste in clothes. Her strong impulse to give me unsought advice reflects that her ego demands perpetual reassurance: she needs to be regularly reminded that she is exceptional. She gives opinion only to make herself feel better about who she is.

According to Hannah Roberts, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist based in San Luis Obispo, California, ”When we give someone advice, we are operating from our own perspective, we are telling the person, ’here’s what I think would work for you.” You may have done your research and carefully considered your recommendations but that won’t necessarily inspire her to act on them.

Bill Bullard said, ”Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. I often wonder why some people want to solve your problems even if they have their own problems to deal with” My friend who is a spinster complains about her all around annoying meathead uncle who keeps pestering her to marry and pops up at her doorstep every ‘other day’ with a ‘prospective groom’. But that Uncle remains a confirmed bachelor. She cringes whenever she sees him and often tells me in dismay that she can’t shoo him off and make him understand that ‘it is none of his business.’

Jane Austin in Pride and Prejudice uses satire, characterization and narrative voice to explore the vocational nature of marriage for women in her society. From the first line in the novel, the narrator reveals her satirical approach to matrimony: “If it was a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This line is an amusing statement when read in conjunction with Mrs. Bennet’s subsequent scheming to secure Mr. Bingley for one of her daughters.

What if that advice is concrete/actionable rather than superfluous and fluffy?

It’s not unusual to have a neighbor who knows when you leave your house, when you return, when you have visitors, when they leave. The neighbor keeps count of how many packages have come from Amazon. It is like they ‘know’ all!

Don’t you hate it if such a neighbor peers at you from their window blinds; it is like you are being stalked. That feeling of reconnaissance surveillance in your own yard. You would want to scream at them ‘get a life’!

It doesn’t stop there! My neighbor for instance told me, “I saw that package left by Amazon, indeed you are getting lazy, why don’t you go to shop instead?” I intend to give my neighbor a grocery list and make her fetch the items. I am sure she would demonstrate proudly her admiral ability to handle the job and I will benefit, unquestionably she will feed on the praise!

One should exploit these habitual opinion giver’s ‘actual work’; ask their advice on something they may be happy to actually ‘take on’ the background research necessary, to make the most informed decision ;))

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a brother warns a sister how to protect her chastity. As Laertes prepares to leave for France, he warns Ophelia not to fall for Hamlet, a young man whose passions will change, a prince who must marry to preserve “sanity and health” of the State. He said, “Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain if with too credent ear you list his songs, or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open to his unmaster’ed importunity. Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister.” Ophelia says, “I shall the effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart. But, good my brother, do not, as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine, himself the primrose path of dalliance treads and recks not his own rede.”

When opinions are given by family members, one must be cautious how to react, You can be assertive and get your point across without torching the relationship– assuming there is something about the person you like. Instead of being a sissy, one must speak their mind and THAT should make them stop. Set and enforce some boundaries.

Generally speaking, when advice is given even before it was asked for, it has a very negative connotation to it. We perceive it as unwanted criticism from a meddling busybody. It comes across as manner less, thoughtless and rude. We shut down and reject the advice (and the advise-giver) completely. Unsavory thoughts race through our mind as we try to compose a sufficiently scathing response. But, wait a minute, what if that advice is concrete/actionable rather than superfluous and fluffy? Then it is surely going to benefit you. So, don’t reject it outright, listen carefully and don’t react, just respond.

Sometimes a well meaning person wants to help you but wonders how you will take it. So note the spirit in which the advice is given. If it was casually slipped into conversation in a way that didn’t belittle you then there is nothing wrong and you should show your gratitude genuinely. But if advice is thrown on your face in a high-handed manner then it is time to show your hostility, passively but if that doesn’t work then more blatantly.

If you are in a pulpit, preach away, but people will rarely listen to your advice unless they are interested to begin with. If one can’t stop oneself from giving advice, at least let the advice steer clear of being abrasive, intrusive and ignorant– even when well meaning, the recipient feels violated by this obtuse intrusion and becomes logically defensive. If you think you need to relay a message than speak of your own experiences, in a way that they could relate to. And for heaven’s sake don’t make a stupid assumption that you have enough information to actually offer advice. If you aren’t asked for one, likelihood is you haven’t been given access to information and likelihood is also that they don’t want to give you more information.

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Madhavi Vudayagiri

Writing and reading has always been my hobby. I would never buy a greeting card to wish a family member or a close friend, instead I would compose a poem highlighting their qualities and greet them. Having been in the field of teaching, studying people is what I do best. Creative writing is my forte, in order to hone my creative gene, I acquired a diploma in creative writing. I love to probe people's minds and try and understand their thought process. This website seems to be just what I am looking for!


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