Well-Intended Bad AdviceSep 29, 2023
Unsolicited or not, don’t most of us love giving advice?
On the flip side, do you like to receive advice? The answer is no for most of us… Isn’t this an interesting paradox?
Sometimes yes, we are looking for advice. More often than not, we are looking to be heard and not receive advice. Often, the outcome is receiving well-meaning and ultimately unhelpful advice.
There’s no shortage of advice when you’re going through a difficult time such as divorce. And it’s true that most people that are offering us advice are likely very well-meaning and have our best interest at heart. And sometimes these are people who… just like to give advice.
Hopefully, you'll be able to learn a bit here on deciphering some of this advice and discovering ways to protect your own self-best interest in these sometimes challenging situations.
Well-Intended Bad Advice Defined
The phrase “well-intended bad advice” is one I learned from a divorce coach I worked with during my divorce experience.
It can be defined as advice that is given with the intention of being helpful, but often can be just the opposite. This type of advice can be particularly harmful when it comes to issues related to significantly challenging issues in our lives whether about careers, family, and divorce. Some common examples of well-intended bad advice include: "just cheer up," "get over it," or "let it go”, “you can’t mediate with a narcissist”, “just go to court”. While these statements may be well-intended, they can be extremely distracting and energy-sucking from your ability to focus and design what is best for you.
Now that you know what some examples are, let’s keep learning and how you can best decide if this is information that you want to use or lose.
Why is Bad Advice So Common?
Bad advice is common for several reasons. First, people love to give advice. It can make us feel useful and like we're helping when we offer advice to someone in need. Additionally, we often try to give advice based on our own experiences. What worked for us might not work for someone else, but we might still recommend it. Finally, we live in a society where silence is uncomfortable. We may not know how to help the person and rather than sit with our friend in that discomfort, we jump to “fix it” mode. It's tempting to jump in with advice, even when we don't fully understand the situation.
Maybe we are looking for guidance, validation, and innovative brainstorming…and not advice.
Where Do We See Well-Intended Bad Advice
Well-intended bad advice is everywhere. Take a moment and look around you. Social media tells us what we need. TV and billboards tell us what we need.
When it comes to advice around divorce and these critical decisions, our choices can impact our preparation and outcome. We can use these things to make informed decisions. We can also have them turn into problems, and this is the intention of this article which is to empower your ability to navigate what you hear and how to apply it or not.
Something that is very important to keep in mind (does this sound like advice?) is that your story is unique. What worked well for somebody else may or may not work well for you. Just like all of the content in this article, read it, consider it, and then make the decision that is best for you.
Why Well-Intended Bad Advice is Rarely Helpful
Well-intended bad advice can be disruptive to one’s ability to focus for several reasons. First, it can invalidate someone's experiences. When we offer advice that ignores or minimizes someone's pain or struggles, it can make them feel like their experiences aren't valid or important. It can interfere with the person’s ability to listen to their own intuition. When experiencing stressful events, it becomes challenging to decipher through all the noise of the “well-intended bad advice”.
Why Well-Intended Bad Advice is Rarely Helpful
Well-intended bad advice can be disruptive to one’s ability to focus for several reasons. First, it can invalidate someone's experiences. When we offer advice that ignores or minimizes someone's pain or struggles, it can make them feel like their experiences aren't valid or important. It can interfere with the person’s ability to listen to their own intuition. When experiencing stressful events, it becomes challenging to decipher through all the noise of the “well-intended bad advice.”
How to Handle Well-Intended Bad Advice
I do believe that most people providing you with advice have heart-filled intentions. The challenge is filtering through this information (which can be overwhelming) and utilizing what might be helpful. Sometimes, it’s hard to get away from the “bad advice”.
Consider your strategies if you start to feel uncomfortable in this type of situation. A few to ponder are to respectfully let the person know in some manner that you’re not looking for advice. Rather than dismissing them outright, consider communicating your experiences and what would be beneficial. Another way is to find a way to slip out of the conversation or respectfully end it. A third option is to have a standard phrase where you are compassionately accepting their “advice” and creating a boundary for yourself.
For example, you might say something like, "I appreciate your advice and at this time, I really need someone to listen and support me." If someone's bad advice feels particularly harmful, it's also okay to set boundaries and limit your exposure to that person. While people often mean well when they offer advice, it's important to recognize that not all advice is helpful or appropriate.
Some advice is great. Some are not. And we don’t always know the best route for ourselves. It begins with building your knowledge base and knowing what your options are. And then you get to try whatever you care to try a little bit at a time and build from there.
As Chris Ulrich said, “Take what you like and leave the rest.” This is from a Communication Specialist and Body Language Expert that I worked with during my preparation.
Yes, I consulted with a Body Language Expert in preparation for my mediation—more on that in a future blog.