Unsolicited Advice

It appears to be a fact of small talk, perhaps just in the Midwest suburbs, that people will constantly give you unsolicited advice. These are suggestions (and sometimes unending interrogations intended to supply potential suggestions) for what to do—for a career, for dating, for your life.

When you definitely did not ask.

I’m not really talking about family or close friends, who have a vested interest in you as a person and who also know you well enough to at least approximate what you might actually want or need to hear. I’m talking about acquaintances, colleagues, random passersby, friends of friends, etc.—all the random people we come across in our day who, meaning well, ask, “How are you? What are you up to?”

And then proceed to tell you what you should do.

It is one thing if you ask, if you say, “I don’t know what to do. Any ideas?” Then, even if the suggestions are not great, you at least are prepared for them.

But so often, when someone offers a suggestion unasked, it comes off as judgment. When you are standing behind the counter at your job, and they start suggesting other jobs or career paths when you did not ask, how are you supposed to take that? Obviously, they’re thinking that you are not or should not be happy with your job, when you did not say that. Or maybe you aren’t happy, but this is where you need and want to be right now, and you didn’t ask for a career assessment in the middle of your eight-hour shift.

Another common culprit is the “set-up.” This one is far more egregious to me personally, because of my social anxiety. But as soon as someone discovers I’m single, they dig up some person who they believe to be of the appropriate sex, age, and personality to date me—when I did not ask. How do they know my sexuality? How do they know I even want to date anyone? They don’t—but they assume I do. I’ve had people even set up meetings with a potential date without asking me, and I had to pull some extremely awkward maneuvers to get out of it.

Because there’s no easy way to respond to this constant barrage of suggestions. People look at you and expect you to rush off and go get that job they just suggested, when in your head you are thinking: “no way in hell.” Except you can’t say that, and it’s hard to even politely say, “no thanks.” Because obviously the person has judged your current situation as in need of improvement, so your choice to not take their brilliant suggestion because you didn’t ask for it and therefore don’t need it comes across as either foolish or rude or ignorant.

I’m a private person (internet blogs excepted); I don’t like talking about my life and my choices to every random stranger or vague acquaintance or even my colleagues. Because I’m young, they assume I’m somehow “unfinished,” and therefore open to prying and constant questions about where I’m going—while because they’re married and older and presumably already on their career path for life, I can’t steer it back towards them. “What are you doing after this?” just isn’t a question for them, but it’s a constant question for me. And I just don’t want to answer truthfully, because it’s none of their business, so I answer vaguely or uncertainly and then they chime in with endless suggestions.

And, clearly, it annoys me. So this has been a classic introvert rant. Thank you. 🙂

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About J. Sevick

Just write.
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