‘You Should’: Dodging a Friend’s Unsolicited Advice
I have a friend who constantly speaks to me in “you shoulds.” Whether it’s something in my professional context, parenting, marriage, friendships — she has unsolicited advice about everything! I don’t think of her as more knowledgeable or wiser than me on any of these fronts (in fact, she is someone I never turn to for advice), so I find this incessant you-should-ing particularly condescending. Any ideas on how to nip this bad habit in the bud without starting a whole conversation about it?
MM: You might not like this but: I think you should don a different personality when you meet this person. The annoyingly-happy-about-everything-must-be-on-Prozac persona usually keeps most people at bay. A should-er would find it less exciting to hang out with you if it seemed like your life needs no fixing. Save the real heart to heart talk for a less intrusive friend, and hope that your plastic smile gives this one the hint!
SB: Take a moment to consider how much time you want to invest in this friend. A little feedback and a some unerstanding of why she ‘shoulds’ might go a long way if you are looking to make an investment in the friendship.
On the other hand, if this person doesn’t do much to enrich your world … I mean who really needs more condescension in their life? When you see her, come with pre-packaged problems for her to dissect and let the should-er be your shoulder (ha!) to cry on. Consider making her feel useful your good deed for the day.
LG: Some people relate by commiserating, others by offering unwanted advice. Both are efforts toward the same message — that they understand what you’re going through and support you. So your friend is probably well-meaning. Or terribly insecure and looking to cover. Or both.
None of that saves her from being obnoxious. Try the subtle, positive-reinforcement approach — “It’s so nice to be able to just vent to someone; thanks for listening!” If that doesn’t work, be blunt: The only people allowed to tell you what you should do are your mother and your therapist.
KB: Life is filled with instances where you need to figure out the most polite possible way to inform someone that you couldn’t care less what they think. This particular friend doesn’t seem to respond to subtlety. Have you tried giving her a dose of her own medicine? Next time you see her, make it a game: interrupt every single one of her sentences with a “you should” statement.
When she starts getting visibly annoyed, give her the innocent “what’s wrong?” face. Sometimes a bossy-pants only learns when you hold up a passive-aggressive mirror.
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