The Drawbacks of Unsolicited Advice

October 4, 2017

Advice is a subjective opinion that one speaker transmits to another with the intention of guiding his behavior in a certain way. The truth is that there are people who, without training or conscience, are pouring out their advice into the lives of others. In this article we have christened them as “know-it-ologists” (get it?) and you’ll usually find at least one in every family or group of friends.

They think that giving advice puts them in a position of authority, wisdom and even prestige. On the other hand, we don’t tend to receive them with disdain because – regardless of how successful they are – it is usually a sign that there are people who care about us, and we shouldn’t mind unless we suspect that behind it all there is a manipulative strategy to guide our behavior.

 Know-it-ologists could be defined as another type of toxic person, who with good intentions tries to fill you  with what you should or should not do with your life, and always based on their own experience.

By basing the advice on their own experience, the conclusions they share with us are not normally applicable to our situation. Therefore, if you meet a person who interferes in your life without asking your opinion, who argues with great assurance without knowing what they are talking about and who also imposes their opinions, then you are in the presence of “know-it-ologist” and you should get away from them quick.

“In trying to help, we can actually harm, by forcing someone else to receive something that he did not ask for. Also, when we insist on giving advice to someone who has not asked us, we are actually giving it to ourselves. “
Alejandro Jodorowsky

To give good advice, it is desirable that the advice has actually been requested; if not, we run the risk of “sticking our nose in where it isn’t wanted.” Secondly, it is essential that we are experts in the matter, enabling us to give a recommendation based on study or truth. Finally, the only way to give correct advice is by empathizing with the recipient and trying to see the problem from their angle and not from our own particular viewpoint, which is probably different to theirs.

Anatomy of a “know-it-ologist”

As we have explained, the know-it-ologist has a number of characteristics that makes it easy for us to recognize him. They are usually older people, who, because of their age, think they have more experience and think they are wiser than we are, and this is certainly not always the case.

Sometimes our closest relatives, and even the parents themselves , become know-it-ologists, when we become adults. Unfortunately, on many occasions – even if it is not intended – this help can have negative repercussions on us.

These are the characteristics that are common in this type of person:

They usually give clichéd advice

“Time is a healer” or “Believe in yourself and you will make it” are the typical tips we read in teen magazines and we try to give them to other people to see if it helps. Obviously, these prefabricated suggestions never work, and even the person you are advising knows them well. He even applies them to his life, but it’s not what he really needs at that particular moment.

Rather than helping, we can often cause the other person to feel guilty for not” believing in him “or “not seeing the positive side of things.”

They have fears that they don’t know how to face and they project them into your life

Know-it-ologists are often people who have issues in their own lives that they need to sort out, but are either afraid to face those circumstances or have not overcome others effectively. This makes them give advice to others as a way of repairing their own life. No one can help another person if they themselves have their mind full of fears.

In addition, many times their advice is full of worry instead of motivation: “don’t do that”, “it’s dangerous”, “and what if it doesn’t go well?”,  since they themselves are often guided by the fear in their lives.

They practice “selfism”

A good know-it-ologist always gives advice based on me, me and only me. Instead of listening to the person in front of them – something that really does help – as soon as you finish your sentence, they quickly say something like this: “Well I …”, “That also happened to me …”. To a greater or lesser extent, all of us have done it at some time or another, and we have seen how others have done the same.

This makes us feel misunderstood or unheard. In the end, it will be us who will have to listen to them. Let us not forget that the experience of another person has little to do with our own experience, even if there are some similarities.

Everyone carries their own baggage and the problem solving should start from that point. This is where a professional would know how to guide you.

They give advice that they themselves do not believe

Most likely, the advice given by a know-it-ologist hasn’t been applied in his own life, because of the simple fact that he doesn’t believe it. It could also be that they would be difficult to apply: perhaps it is the right thing to do, but not at that precise moment when they are feeling weak.

The advice, whatever the situation, must be realistic, forward-moving and adapted to the person in question. General tips such as “If you want to quit smoking you should leave it overnight and chew gum for your nerves ” are simply unrealistic – in this case there are many more techniques that could be used. This advice can even harm the person, fill them with stress or anxiety and have the opposite effect.

They think that the other person is not as capable as they are and that they need him

Know-it-ologists act like “lifesavers” and think that other people are not as knowledgeable as they are and that we are inferior and therefore need them. This attitude is nothing more than a front that causes them not to take care of their own affairs, a form of distraction to not take charge of their own life. Actually nobody needs our advice, what they really need is that we cooperate with them in order for them to achieve their desires or goals, which is not the same.
Before giving advice to someone who has not asked us or someone we don’t really know, let us always remember the following reflection:

Whoever tries to help a butterfly out of its cocoon, kills it; whoever tries to help a shoot get out of its seed, destroys it. There are certain things we cannot help with. The help must come from the inside out.