The Denver Post
Friendship falters on unsolicited advice
DEAR AMY >> I have been friends with “Susan” for over 35 years. I have shared many extremely sensitive and delicate problems with her.
She has taken on the role of giving me lots of personal advice.
In the past her advice was helpful, but in recent years, it has become more intrusive. A number of times I have started a conversation by saying, “I just want to tell you about this. No advice about it is needed, please.”
She listens and then directly defies my request and insists on giving her advice no matter what.
This situation is causing me a great deal of emotional distress.
I purchased a new house and over a period of six to seven months I didn’t tell her. Why? Because I wanted to make the important decisions about what home to purchase, what neighborhood I wanted to live in, etc., and I knew that at some point if I told her, she would find a way to influence my decision-making.
When I did finally tell her (after moving in), she was shocked.
She has also given me legal advice (she is not an attorney, but her husband is) that was downright inaccurate.
When I pointed this out, she brushed it off.
I haven’t talked to her in over nine months. Why? Because she advised me about an aspect of writing my will which was completely inaccurate. I became so exasperated that I felt like exploding inside.
I’ve been so distressed that I haven’t finished writing my will — even with my attorney’s assistance.
I am in my 60s, female, and single. My friends are my family. What should I do?
— Wanting to Turn Off the
DEAR WANTING >> Hearing advice feels worse than someone merely expressing an opinion different from your own, because when someone offers advice, they are actually telling you what to do. And if this advice is unsolicited, they are assuming that you need it, perhaps because your own judgment is flawed.
Your internal reaction to all of this unsolicited advice is understandable.
However, you don’t mention ever discussing this with “Susan.” Your passivity has contributed to the problem.
Yes, you’ve tried to head her off at the pass, but that hasn’t worked and so now you are absorbing all of this explosive rage, rather than risk telling this very old friend how her behavior affects you.
If you want to continue with this friendship, you should give Susan the benefit of knowing the intensity of your reaction to her unsolicited advice. Say, “I’ve stopped being in touch so often because I find your advice oppressive. I’ve been looking for friendship, not advice. Can we try for a reset?”
If Susan is so locked into her habit — or so dense — that she responds to this statement by offering advice, you could interrupt her: “Oops, there — you’re doing it. That’s exactly what has been bothering me so much.”
While on our daily walks, my partner and I sometimes encounter one of our casual acquaintances who soon starts to tell us about one of his friends, whom we do not know at all, in great detail.
We politely nod and smile, asking a harmless question or two, while waiting for the conversation to end.
We do not want to be rude, but how do we politely tell this person that we just don’t know who he is talking about?
DEAR AMY >>
DEAR CLUELESS >> If you broke into this monologue to say, “I’m sorry, but we don’t know that person,” your acquaintance would likely take the opportunity to explain, in detail, the stranger’s backstory.
Nodding, smiling, and demonstrating patience are all positive qualities. Think of it as compassion cardio, which can be good for your heart health.
If you’re on a walk and don’t want to be interrupted, you could respond, “It’s always nice to see you. We’re going to press on. Have a great morning!”
And then you ease on down the road.