I just bought a new house (yay me!) and am still unpacking/deciding where things go. After living with family for about a year while I saved up to be able to afford a down payment, you can imagine how excited I am to be able to put my own decorating touch on my own space!
I invited my oldest friend over to see it over the weekend. While it’s nowhere near company-ready, and she knew it, she made many, many comments about “you should move the couch there”; “that picture I sent you on your phone would look good on your wall”; “did you know your floor sloped?”; “is this the couch that needed more stuffing? I can help you with that” etc., etc., etc. (I know, some of these sound nice but these are just the comments I remembered. The one that “got” me was the one about moving the couch. I actually had the couch specifically where I wanted. Oh, and she made a comment about one of my end tables being too big for the space. Well, I am downsizing so I can’t actually replace everything all at once).
I believe she comes from a good place, but this is how she is with everyone – constantly offering her opinions and advice when not asked for. It’s a non-stop verbal diarrhea and it’s like she can’t help herself. The onslaught was such that I couldn’t get a word in.
I’ve tried limiting my contact with her over the years for this very reason – I don’t like being told “you should…” anything. But I am a wimp at saying “You know, I didn’t ask you over here for advice, I just wanted you to see my new place.” When she left, she did say she was really, really happy for me, and I know she is. She’s just not one to keep her opinions to herself.
So, if I can’t change my friend, how can I change me? How can I get my internal “ugh, don’t tell me what to do” to become more external?
Because she really harshed my mellow.
Thank you in advance!
Hi there, congrats on the new house!
I think it is 100% okay to tell a friend “Oh, thanks, but I’m not looking for advice” when they reflexively offer advice. Your script of “Hey, I didn’t ask you over here for decorating stuff, I just wanted to show you the place” is totally fine.
- “Thanks for the offers of help – I’ll let you know if I need to take you up on any of that. Right now I am so happy to have my own space where I can put everything just as I like it.“
- “Cool, but the couch is exactly where I want it for now!” (Sometimes it’s easier to be assertive with positive statements).
- “That photo you sent was really great, thanks.” (Make no commitments about hanging it)
- “I’m really going to take my time with any home improvements or decorating. This is a ‘showing off my new house’ visit, not a ‘hardware store list-making visit.“
- “Huh, thanks, I’ll think about it.“
Get ready for an aggrieved “Well, I was just trying to help” response, to which you can say: “I know you are excited and looking for ways to help but hang back a sec and let me enjoy the moment, will ya? I promise to seek your wise counsel if I need it.”
Give her a few chances and some time to let her reset things. Her personality won’t change, but eventually, she’ll learn not to do this so much around you.
If you’re the reflexive advice-giver in this situation (um, hello, 1043 questions, I’m not just the Captain I’m also a member), here’s your reminder to ask first. Unsolicited advice is exhausting. Some examples:
If someone says they are enjoying a particular show, maybe try asking “What else are you watching?“or “Are you interested in some recommendations of things to watch next?” before you jump in with “You have to watch [fave]!.” Enthusiasm is great, but remind yourself that people don’t “have to” do shit.
If someone vents about a problem, ask “Are you looking for suggestions on how to handle that or just venting?” before you launch in with how they “should” have handled things. A “hey, this thing sucks right now” post is not an automatic cry for solutions. This goes a thousandfold for anything medical or related to eating. Are you the person’s doctor or nutritionist? Do you literally share a body with that person? Did they ask you for suggestions because they know you’re an expert on said topic? No? Great. Then stop with the “Have you tried _____?”
And for the love of all that is holy and unholy, if someone complains about their iPhone or their Android device or their Mac vs. their PC or their Avid vs. Premiere or any technology problem, STFU about what they “should” have bought instead, forever and always, amen. I literally saw someone say “Well, this wouldn’t happen if you were running Ubuntu!” on one of my feeds yesterday in response to a question about Windows and it’s probably really good that I don’t have any telekinetic fire-starting powers.
I love helping! You love helping! We love helping! And yet? Unsolicited advice is exhausting and helpful intentions don’t make it less exhausting.
Letter Writer, I know you dread it, but the world won’t swallow you if you acknowledge your friend’s kind intentions while shutting down the behavior.