Unsolicited Advice Is Like Giving Another Actor a Note
You don’t know what you’re doing either, so kindly shut up.
One of the most obnoxious things any parent experiences is the wonder and bullshit that is unsolicited advice. It is intrusive, at times manipulative, and ALWAYS annoying.
What’s infuriating is when it comes from people who don’t have children. That’s like ensemble track 83 giving notes to the actor whose name is on the marquee.
But what is unsolicited advice, exactly?
Basically, it’s an opinion terribly disguised as advice that no one asks for. It’s also super fun when it’s handed out passive-aggressively.
- (baby crying) Oh, is the baby hungry? The baby looks hungry. When was the last time you fed the baby?
- My friend who’s a pediatrician says that you should take the pacifier away or they’ll be dependent on it.
- Ohhh the baby won’t fall asleep without the boob? Maybe it’s time to stop breastfeeding.
All of the above happened to me and I’m still annoyed, LOL.
- (looking at someone else’s audition book) “You should really put those pages in plastic sheets. First rule from (OBNOXIOUS NAME DROP HERE), casting director and teacher in New York.” (This actually happened to me at an audition where I was minding my own fkn business and in walks this know-it-all criticizing my open binder)
- Hey, say the line like this so that I can react like this, it’ll be funnier. (Me. I did this. Oops.)
But what’s wrong with giving unsolicited advice?
I’m guilty of it. We all are at some point or another. I once e-mailed my cousin and told her about the forward facing car seat law in California, never mind I live in New York. And I even dressed it up with OMG you’re such a good mom, tho. Ew, gross, me.
I remember trying to give another actor a note during a rehearsal very early in my career and was shut the fuck down, and rightfully so.
Just like giving another actor a note, it is terribly inappropriate. At the very core, it reeks of disrespect. To insert your opinion where it is unwanted or not asked for is presumptuous behavior, and begs the question, Who do you think you are?
Unsolicited advice, just like actor-to-actor notes, come off as criticism and judgement. It causes unneeded stress on the part of the advisee, especially when it is not particularly helpful and only aims to serve the person giving it.
But if giving unsolicited advice is such off putting behavior, why do we do it?
- We want to help, truly (As snarky as I sound, I really do believe this is most people)
- It’s a tactic for getting someone to do what we want or think is best.
- We think we know more than the person we are talking to. (How many actors does it take to change a lightbulb? Five. One to actually change the lightbulb while the other four talk about how they could do it better.)
- That new diet or product or whatever helped us, so we want to try to help others, too.
- To attempt to have some measure of control over things we have no control over. This is why our parents always tell us what to do, even after we are grown and moved out. At the root of it lies their worries as parents, which will never really go away.
As a mother, that last one really hit me. I will never stop worrying about my kids, and when I’m 90 you bet I’ll be telling my 55 year old daughter to make sure to take her blood pressure meds on time or else.
But How Do I Stop Giving Unsolicited Advice?
Remember your own boundaries. Ask yourself how you would feel if you opened your heart to someone and they just barfed their opinion all over it without any acknowledgement of your feelings? If someone comes to you to talk about a problem they’re having, just listen. Their trusting you with their problems is not an invitation for you to give your own opinion. They are coming to you for support, first and foremost.
So what do you do instead? Just ask if they are in need of advice, or just support. If you truly want to be helpful to this person, the best way to find out how is to ask.
How Do I Respond to Unsolicited Advice?
That depends on who’s giving the advice. The response you give to a stranger (K THANKS BYE) would be very different than the one you would give to your mother-in-law (or not, I don’t know your MIL, haha!).
Regardless, the hard and fast rule is just to be direct and polite. Thank you for that but all I need right now is someone to just listen.
You could also preface your story with, I’m not looking for advice, just to vent.
The greatest weapon against unsolicited advice is knowing what you need. Consider the source, and process accordingly. To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson: “All advice is a product of the person giving it.” Basically, it is a reflection of the giver’s life experiences and beliefs. Just take what works for you and ignore the rest. Unless it’s a note from another actor, and in that case, ignore ignore ignore.
For parents, and new mothers especially, the advice comes from everywhere and is overwhelming. I once asked for a healthy and ZERO sugar cookie recipe in a FB food appreciation group and was met with one lady scolding me with absolutely no punctuation whatsoever, “sorry to be blunt but whos the parent here just say no to the cookies bla bla blaarrrrrgghhh” because I had mentioned these would be a snack before bedtime.(NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION THANKS.)
What I want new parents to understand is you know more than you think you do. And whatever you need to know, you can ask for. My wish for new mothers is to just love on yourself, love on that baby and know when to ask for help. It is 100% okay to enforce your boundaries, for your mental health and well being. Becoming a parent is hard enough but when unsolicited advice starts to chip away at your instincts, everyone suffers.
Enough with the unsolicited advice!
What’s the worst piece of unsolicited advice you’ve received?
Someone once told me to put raw flour on my infant daughter’s open rash on her face. RAW flour on an open wound. If you can’t eat raw flour, why would you ever put it on an open wound?
What’s the worst piece of unsolicited advice anyone has ever given you? Let me know in the comments!