Ranjana TN

Please don’t help me

There is a time to provide advice and offer an opinion, and there is a time not to. Don’t be too quick to offer unsolicited advice. It certainly will not endear you to people.

– Harvey Mackay

I have a friend who I truly think calls me up only to offer me some advice. She is determined to find something that needs fixing in my life and is ready with advice. Even when I don’t ask for it. Even when I don’t even see something as a problem that needs addressing. Even if she notices that it doesn’t really help me. These calls always leave me feeling sapped of energy. Every time the phone rings and it’s her calling, my heart fills with dread, knowing what’s in the offing. Every time I get off a call with her, I wonder why I spoke to her when I knew full well how I’d end up feeling.

Then there’s yet another person who loves to help. He says, “reach out if you need help” all the time like a mantra. It leaves me wondering if he ever wants to connect with me at a level of equals…as a friend rather than as a person who needs helping all the time. I hesitate to reach out to him even when I really do need help. Imagine if you only reach out to someone when you need something from them. How would that make you feel? Like a moocher, I bet. I don’t want to feel that way, of course. So…I seldom ever call him.

Wanting to help others is an innate need in us. But as Harvey Mackay correctly observed, there’s a time and place to provide that. If you’re doing it because you think there’s something that needs to be set right in another person, please stop and think about what you’re doing. Do you think that person would appreciate you looking at them as something broken that needs fixing? Would you be open to getting advice in such circumstances?

The permission to ignore unsolicited advice

You have the permission to ignore unsolicited advice.

Irrespective of who gives it to you – your mom, your ‘friend’, that ‘industry expert’, or an absolute stranger.

Irrespective of how much the other person thinks you need their help.

Irrespective of how much the other person wants to help.

Irrespective of how much they think you need ‘fixing’.

Irrespective of how much they’ve helped you in the past.

Seriously, you don’t need to listen to them just because they have volunteered to give you their nuggets of wisdom. Most of all, you don’t need to feel guilty for ignoring them. Remember that their offering you advice doesn’t mean that you need to accept it. It’s akin to a salesperson offering you their merchandise. You get to decide for yourself if you want to buy anything from them or not. Offering is up to them. Accepting it (or not) is totally up to you.

Remember also that you are not being unkind by declining their offer. Neither are you being ungrateful. You are merely doing that which is right for you. You know yourself the best and need to respect that which is true for you.

A number of times, unsolicited advice can even become a form of boundary violation. The aforementioned friend thinks it’s appropriate to tell me, every time, why I shouldn’t have rigid rules about wanting a vegan partner. Honestly, I got so tired of the back and forth that I decided to go ahead and publish this article. The next time she brings it up, I’ll merely direct her to this post. I now recognize this as an outright boundary violation. No one has the right to tell me what sort of characteristics I should seek in a partner. I don’t appreciate anyone giving me unsolicited advice – especially on super personal matters. Period.

Remember that you get to choose your boundaries and there’s no right or wrong. Also remember that there is such a thing called energetic boundaries. If a person makes you feel low and sapped of positivity every time you speak to them, it means that you haven’t set clear enough energetic boundaries between you and them. It means that you need to pick better people for friends. It means that you need to honour what your body is conveying to you – that these well-meaning individuals (or not) are not people to be entertained in your life. Drop them guilt-free. And drop them pronto. You’ll feel better immediately after. I promise you.

Remember that everything comes with an opportunity cost. Every second you spend with someone that brings you down is a second away from someone who uplifts you. Choose wisely. Honour your own internal navigation system. Embrace those who fill you with optimism, a sense of possibility, and an unbound zest for life.

Cut loose and watch yourself soar.