Advice is plentiful, whether we look for it or not. What to eat, where to live, how to act; you can find someone, somewhere, ready to offer their opinion.
How do you respond to advice that you don’t like?
When Jennifer moved from her hometown, she found a culture—friends, work, and relationships, that was quite at odds with her upbringing.
However, she’s stayed connected with folks “back home,” remembering their support on her difficult road to adulthood.
Back for a visit, Jennifer is excited to see old friends and share her new life. No longer is she shy and awkward. Now she has status, identity, and accomplishments. Being in the old environment only sharpens the contrast between then and now. It feels good.
Mary has been like a grandmother to Jennifer and others in the neighbourhood. Highly respected, unfailingly supportive, Mary offered sound advice for whatever problem popped up in her “kids” lives.
Jennifer paid Mary a visit and settled in for a nice conversation. That was not to be.
What Jennifer heard is that she is living a bad life. She has rejected all the wisdom she had been taught and is, essentially, a bad person.
Jennifer was shocked. She couldn’t believe that her beloved mentor would disapprove of her, now that she is happy for the first time. How could Mary not understand? Isn’t her happiness enough evidence that this is right for her?
As Jennifer thought more, she moved to resentment. How dare she disapprove! How dare she meddle in my life! How dare she!
This has all left Jennifer stressed, uncertain, and unhappy. What to do?
One question Jennifer could consider is, “Does Mary have the right to an opinion that differs from yours?”
Mary’s opinion may be unpopular, judgmental, even wrong. But she can have opinions. Just because you believe that you have the right to be viewed positively doesn’t mean that everyone is going to agree with you!
Different people have very different views of what’s acceptable and what isn’t; of what is right and what is wrong.
Another factor for Jennifer to consider is that Mary may not believe that she is meddling at all.
What Jennifer wanted to hear was, “Follow your dreams. I’m happy for you.” Mary may believe that would be irresponsible. Her perspective is, “I see the direction you are headed in and it is only going to bring you heartbreak.”
When you are concerned about someone and believe they are making poor choices, is it more caring to tell them? Or not? Mary may see it as her duty to point out what she sees as Jennifer’s errors.
Jennifer now has choices to make about this relationship. She can walk away in anger. She can withdraw gently. She could try to come to a deeper understanding with Mary.
There is likely no benefit to a fight. The childish defiance of, “You can’t tell me what to do” will not persuade Mary, or anyone, that Jennifer’s current choices are well-considered and deserve respect.
Does Jennifer want to maintain this relationship? It has, after all, been helpful over the years. She’s felt loved and cared for, and it gave her a valuable foundation. After the shock of disapproval dissipates, Jennifer might also want to review what Mary said. Is there any validity there?
Either way, Jennifer could thank Mary and remain appreciative of her help over the years.
Our choices will not always be met with approval. We don’t only hear opinions that match what we already believe. However, how we handle those disagreements can set the stage for whether we can even continue talking.
Are you on the receiving end of advice you don’t like? Do you ever give that advice?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom