In my work as a therapist, I rarely get unsolicited advice from other professionals, because the nature of my work is confidential. When I do get suggestions, it's usually from clients who suggest things like a new paint color for my office walls.
But in my role as an author, I get a fair amount of unsolicited advice. Whether it's a stranger telling me to change the title of my book (a year after it's been published) or a neighbor suggesting I make my audiobook available on cassette tape (true story), those tips aren't always applicable.
Responding to unsolicited advice can be a bit of an art form. If you sound semi-interested, you may open the door to more bad advice. But, if you shut them down too aggressively, you may damage the relationship.
The key is to reply in a manner that doesn't give away your personal power. Here are six ways to respond to unhelpful advice ranked in order of assertiveness:
1. "I'll think about that."
Even if you don't actually plan to think about, this is a way to respond politely. The danger, however, is the person may check back with you in a few days to see if you're really going to take their advice.
2. "Good idea. I'll consider if that's right for me."
This makes it clear that just because the other person prefers to do something one way, doesn't mean it's right for you. Whether your mother-in-law weighs in on your parenting strategies or your friend comments on your eating habits, make it clear that there isn't a one-size-fits-all scenario.
3. "That's an interesting opinion, but I prefer to do it this way."
This works well when someone is standing over you expecting you to make an immediate change. If you have no plans to change, just come out and say so.
4. "I'm not looking for any advice right now."
Whether your sister is weighing in on your latest romantic relationship or your colleague is giving you SEO advice from 2010, make it clear you aren't concerned. Be firm and assertive so the other person knows you have zero interest in hearing more.
5. "That's not actually in line with my values."
If someone tells you to do something you don't believe in, make it clear that the advice goes against your values. If the idea has some merit, acknowledge that. Say something like, "Yes, I could make money by operating my business on religious holidays, but that goes against my values."
6. "I'm not going to do that."
Sometimes it's the people who know the least about your situation that insist on offering the most guidance. When you hear really bad advice, just come out and say you're not going to take it. Don't be afraid to show someone you don't value what they have to say about a certain subject.
Consider the source.
Before you decide how to respond to unwanted advice, consider the source and your relationship with that person. If it's a stranger you'll never see again, offer a polite response and move on. If it's your co-worker who offers unwanted advice every day, you'll need to set some firm limits.
There may be times when you need to distance yourself from people who insist on handing out their pearls of wisdom ad nauseam. When your words don't seem to send a strong enough message, you may need to limit your contact.
Be sure that you don't reject all the advice you hear. Just because you weren't looking for help, doesn't mean someone's suggestions won't be helpful. And don't forget to express gratitude when you get a time-saving shortcut or a money-saving tidbit that you weren't expecting.