Wendy's Blog

Why We Hate It When People Force Their Opinions On Us – and What To Do About It

by Wendy Keller, author, speaker

I just got off the phone with a well-meaning, kind-hearted older woman who truly believes she knows what’s best for me in every situation.  She was adamant in her advice, as adamant as I am about not taking it.  All my life, I’ve called this woman “Mom.”  I wasted a half hour telling my mother why I can’t/won’t/don’t want to do what she insists is right for me.  She thinks I’m being stubborn.  I think she’s being pushy.

I notice, however, that I always think I know what’s best for my almost-20-yr-old daughter.  Several of my friends get my unsolicited advice on occasion.  In my regular work as a literary agent, I am forced to give VERY unwelcome advice to authors whose bad book ideas will never get published successfully. In summary, I’m as guilty as my own dear mom.

We all hate it when people force their opinions on us.  Why?  Because we are all required to learn our own lessons at precisely the speed we are capable of learning them – even if someone who has already passed that lesson wants to illuminate it for us.  I am reminded of the sales adage:

A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

Especially when we are are going through challenges, people who care will offer us advice – and some want to cram it down our throats.  While talking to my mom, I remembered the THREE STEPS FOR COPING WITH UNSOLICITED ADVICE.  I used them and  I diffused the situation. I realize I’m not the only one who entangles with unsolicited advice and the arguments that ensue. You may also get benefit from this strategy.

1.  Silently ask yourself WHY the person is shoving their opinion in your face.  In my mom’s case, it’s because she really wants to help me. In a boss’ case, perhaps s/he wants to keep the business running smoothly so everyone HAS a job next month.  In a friend’s case, it may be that they want to spare you the pain they experienced in a similar situation.  The minute you can put yourself into someone else’s shoes, the situation automatically calms down.

2.  Listen to their position.  It’s possible that maybe 1% of the advice is rather good.  You don’t have to publicly acknowledge it, but just listen for it. This person probably isn’t a complete idiot.  Take a breath, realize they’re coming from what to them seems a reasonable perspective and open your mind for a split second by asking, “Can I learn something from this?”  Even if it’s just how the other side thinks.

3. Be clear in your response.  Don’t agree to do something that you know you won’t.  That’s being chicken and it’s out of integrity – and it lays the table for another fight soon.  Say, “I appreciate hearing your perspective.  Let me think that over.”  Insecure people will try to get you to immediately agree with them, but just calmly repeat your statement.  It is polite, it acknowledges that you heard it and it underscores that you are capable of making your own decisions rationally and maturely.  Bonus points if you can also summarize in a sentence or two what the person wants you to do or not do.  As a random example, “I understand that you want me to wear a seat belt when I drive, because you believe I will be safer that way and you care about my safety.”   (P.S. – It’s my opinion that you SHOULD always wear a seat belt, FYI!)

Why -> Listen -> Clear

These three steps can diffuse any argument when you apply them calmly, assertively and consistently.  Write them down on a Post-It pad and next time you’re about to lock heads with someone, go through these steps and see if it doesn’t make the situation much easier to manage.

 

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  1. Great article. This is one of those things that annoys alot of people i know. It’s easy to have knee jerk reactions to unsolicited advice which can trigger an argument or disagreement with someone who probably means well. One of the things i find is that acknowledging a persons advice then explaining why that advice might not work for you is helpful. Of course there are know it all types who simply wont let it go and that reguires a more direct approach. Lol..

    • Thanks Andrea – yes! I skip the “explaining why this won’t work” part myself – seems futile in most cases – but otherwise I’m wholeheartedly in agreement with you. (You probably are more gentle at the explaining part!)

      Wendy

      • Lol….My family would disagree about the more gentle part. When i’m in this kind of situation i usually respond with something like.. “that might work for you but in my case…etc..” or “i appreciate your suggestion but i’ve already considered that and it’s not an option for me..”. Using a firm voice and changing the subject quickly tends to get the point across. As someone mentioned in a comment on facebook alot of people who give unsolicited advice don’t seem to follow their own words. Especially when it comes to relationship and child rearing advice. A “how’s that working for you??” response tends to shut them up!! 🙂

  2. I get the same thing from my Mom and I know she truly cares and this is why she is trying, unsuccessfully, how to live my life. I will simply walk away and not talk to her, because she annoys me and I don’t want to argue with her. Well tonite I found out that she has cancer and it will most likely be terminal and I am soooo mad at myself for not speaking with her these last few months. So yeah, probly a good idea to talk it out. Just sayin’!

    • karla from colorado says:

      rr — sooo sorry about your Mom’s diagnosis and your whole situation there!! Please don’t be too hard on yourself – you cant’ change the past by beating yourself up; you’re doing the right thing now and that’s what matters. Make the most of each day and tell her you love her every day… Prayers that she fights the cancer and gets many more years to give you advice!! 🙂

    • Hi Rose,

      Lucky you – you found out in time to remedy the situation and say what you need/want to say to your mom. While I’m really sad to hear of her diagnosis, I’m grateful that this really does give you the opportunity to clear the air, which will be of benefit to you both whether or not she succumbs or heals.

      Wishing you love, joy and peace – even at this challenging time
      Wendy

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