There are many, many times in life when we need to lean on other people. Since moving to Australia, I have had to do this more than ever. I rely on Jack because we’re in this ‘moving to the other side of the world’ situation together. I rely on my new friends to get me out of the house and to know what it feels like to be living in a country that is different to the one you grew up in. I rely on my family in Australia to provide that feeling of ‘home comfort’ and on my family and friends back home to keep me in the loop and remind me that they haven’t forgotten me.
When I feel low or worried, I tap into these sources of support. Sometimes I need just one person, sometimes I need a few. I can’t think of a single time where I have made the choice to speak to someone when I have been struggling and walked away feeling that I didn’t benefit from what they were saying. Sometimes I might not have fully agreed or thought some parts were irrelevant to me, but for the most part they had something to say that benefited me.
Unsolicited advice, however, can be different.
I genuinely believe that people offer advice, even when it has not been asked for, because they think that they are helping. Sometimes they’re right – sometimes advice out of the blue can be the thing that wakes you up and makes you realise where things have been going wrong. Sometimes you can be reaching out for support without knowing it and their advice can be the thing that pulls you through.
But sometimes it’s just uncalled for. Sometimes it’s borderlines on rude.
In my life, I’ve had experiences where I’ve been given advice or told I need to change something without asking for it and have walked away feeling really hurt. There have been times where I have felt good about something only for someone else to take the shine off of it simply because it is not something that they liked. Even when talking about coming to Australia, I had someone constantly belittle my decision and make me doubt if it was the right thing to do because it wasn’t something that they would personally do with their life.
It’s hard not to take offence when a person’s uncalled for advice comes across as someone believing that you are so incompetent when it comes to navigating your own path that they must take over and carve the way for you in a totally different direction. I’m all for supporting others, but their is a big difference between supportive advice and controlling advice.
In a new country, I want advice. I want advice on where to go, how to help homesickness, where’s the cheapest places to buy products. In life in general, I want advice that I can ignore, advice that I can pass on to other people, advice that I feel helps.
What I don’t want is to be made to feel like I am making a catalogue of fatal errors or that people are cringing watching me. I don’t want someone who is itching to have an ‘I told you so’ moment at my expense. I don’t want to feel like people are smirking and thinking ‘I wouldn’t have done that’ and waiting for me to fall. I don’t want to be judged unfavourably on my decisions just because they are different to someone else’s. I don’t want someone telling me what to do without even listening to what I want.
We’re all trying to make the best of our lives and do right by ourselves. That in itself deserves some credit before any criticism.
If you are going to offer unsolicited advice, I think you need to question yourself about it first. Before saying anything, you need to ask if the person is ready to hear it. If someone is really upset, perhaps just listening is all they need. If someone can sort the problem out them self, don’t just tell them the answer. We learn better when we figure things out ourselves.
One of the biggest things that people need to think of when offering unsolicited advice is who it is benefiting – the person you’re saying it to or yourself? Are you saying it because you disapprove of what they’re doing? Do you want them to do what you want rather than what they want? Are they making choices you don’t agree with and that’s why you feel the need to say something? If there is any selfish motivation in your advice, don’t say it. We only reach out for advice when we are desperate and we need reassurance and support. To use someone’s need for support for personal gain is wrong.
Listen to your friends and family first before you speak. Offer then a hug, words of encouragement and open arms. Offer advice last or if and when they ask for it. They will ask you for advice more than you think if you aren’t forcing them to take it.