As a writer, I live in a weird environment. I learn as much as I can and share it with the world. I hope someone out there finds what I write, reads it, and lives a better life because of it. It’s literally my job to do so. And because the world is so massive, the chance of my words finding the right person, even if it’s only one person, is high.
Then I walk away from my laptop.
I see my wife. I see my mom and dad and sister. Further, I see friends and neighbors, family and acquaintances. And I just want to help. I want to give them the advice that has, I hope, helped someone else. But they want nothing to do with it. If they wanted my advice, they’d ask for it. Which they don’t. So I find myself in a position I’d imagine a clocked-out therapist often finds themself in.
You just want to be of assistance, it’s literally your job to do so, but you are forced to keep your mouth shut. At least, for as long as you can.
Let’s revel together in our shared commonality. In these things well-intentioned people secretly do.
We love to give untested advice.
“Do you think you’ll do low-carb with me? It’s so much better for you.” I sat at dinner with my wife and daughter. I had recently started a low-carb diet. A food program where I ate mostly meat and cheese, and little of everything else. I was fresh off of reading a couple books that touted its benefits. They offered praise for fats and proteins and admonished all things carbohydrate.
And I was sold.
I tossed the raspberries and replaced them with string cheese. I ditched ice cream and grabbed a pack of bacon. Overnight, my entire eating regime changed. I was converted. And as an excited new follower, I wanted to share my good news with everyone around. “Have you heard? Carbs are bad! Carbs are bad!”
But there was a problem. My advice was wholly untested. I had just finished the books. I had just begun the new program. And I honestly didn’t know if I would get the results I was hoping for. Luckily, my wife was skeptical of my sales pitch. She decided to wait and see how I did over a couple months.
I ended up gaining weight on the strict new program. I found it unsustainable and undesirable. She was smart to have waited.
As well-intentioned people, we want to share what we know. We want the best for everyone around us. But as I learned the hard way, until you’ve tested the advice yourself, you should remain quiet on the matter.
We refuse to accept others as they are.
I am a judgmental person. That’s probably why I enjoy what I do so much. I get to vent and give advice to all those who could, in my opinion, be doing so much more.
My message may resonate with you, or it may not. However, the important thing is that you sought me out. This article wasn’t forced on you. You had to actively either click on it or search for it. In other words, you were looking for an answer and I provided you with one.
With those we love most, however, that is rarely the case.
They aren’t looking to change and they certainly don’t want to get advice on changing from you. As well-intentioned people who want the best for them, this can be hard to swallow. Acceptance and non-judgment are something I personally struggle with.
Loving What Is by Byron Katie explains a system for better accepting yourself and others. To help you stop fighting reality and just love what is. I’m listening to it at present and am finding it quite useful. It’s too early for me to advise you to read it (see the section above about untested advice). However, if you want to try out the system with me, check out her book.
We talk behind your back.
I have a friend who is struggling. At least, he is to me as an outsider. He doesn’t enjoy his work or where he lives. He’s constantly worried and his dating life is a mess. I see him and I want to give him the answers. I want to sit down with him and address everything, point by point. Let me show you what to do, I think to myself.
But I don’t say anything. If he asks me a question, I give an answer. Other than that, I’m a shoulder to cry on.
Did I mention I’m practicing acceptance? It’s hard. I have all these thoughts bubbling over for him. So I wrote an article. In it, I gave him solutions to every one of his problems. Then I published it. I never told him about the article. And he’ll probably never see it. But at least now I know two things:
- I was able to get the advice out of my system.
- If someone out there is facing a similar situation, at least it can help them.
As well-intentioned people, we want the world for those we love. Or maybe, we just want to feel important. Maybe a bit of both. Regardless, when my advice goes unsought, it still exists. I don’t like bottling it up. So I let it out through the occasional disguised article or monologue to my very patient wife as we drive home.
If you must give advice, try to redirect it towards something more productive. Or, at the very least, not intrusive.
We have the best of intentions.
We want to share our lessons so others don’t have to experience them first-hand. But that doesn’t always go over well. That said, let’s revel together in our shared commonality. For your reference once again, here are three things we, the well-intentioned, secretly do:
- Give untested advice out of excitement.
- Struggle to accept others as they are.
- Privately vent the advice we’d love to give.