Bowl of Smoke photo by Melanie Cook.

A few years back, imperfect strangers would stop me in the grocery store and give me advice. On everything. My looks, my clothes, my love life, my purchases. Everything. If one more person had told me what I should do with my life, I would have exploded. I was caught up in the adversity of advice-ty, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

“I can’t believe that just happened,” a friend said after witnessing one of these interactions. “Why in the world would a complete stranger ever say that to another person? She didn’t know you or anything about you, but she sure told you how to live your life.” I wondered that, too, but more recently, I’ve wondered why it stopped more suddenly than it started. What I learned was that the change wasn’t in the world around me but in me, and I realized that, yes, there are some ways to stop getting fire-hosed with advice that drives you crazy.

  1. Stop asking for it.

I mean stop LITERALLY asking for advice. When I came out of a long-term marriage, I had to rebuild myself from the ground up. There were areas of my life that were very solid, such as my knowledge of my career field. I rarely asked for advice about work because I didn’t need it. I knew what I was doing. But when it came to being on my own for the first time in a couple of decades? Not just alone, but alone and responsible for my kids as well? I felt I couldn’t afford to make mistakes. I needed tools for dealing with my situation, especially in areas where I’d botched previous relationships, so I asked for help in understanding what was happening and what my options were.

And friends, colleagues, family, and strangers were more than happy to give me their opinions. I needed reinforcement much of the time, validation that I was

making a good decision, verification that I was doing something right after feeling for years that I did only the wrong things. But at some point, the advice became overwhelming, and solicited advice turned too quickly into unsolicited advice that was overbearing. Some people just couldn’t stop giving it, long after I didn’t need it or want it. I’d opened a door I couldn’t seem to shut and far too many people took the parental role in doling out their advice on situations that were no longer in need of more analysis or help.

I stopped asking advice of anyone new, except in certain situations where I paid for professional advice, but the overwhelming and now unwanted “friendly” advice was suffocating me with negativity and causing me to questions things I felt good and right about–and that left me hurt, angry, full of doubt, and overwhelmed. And yet, even though I was no longer asking for advice in a literal sense, people whom I’d never laid eyes on sought me out to tell me what “you should do” or “you need to do” or “you ought to do.” No, what I really NEEDED to do was…

Thank you for reading!   The complete version of this article is now included in Give Your Life Direction.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *