Iris headed a committee in a community organization. As she prepared her project, Katy publicly started giving her advice on how she should do her job. Iris didn’t appreciated the interference and felt belittled; it felt like unwarranted judgment of her abilities. She didn’t feel valued. It was an affront to her dignity.
Unfortunately, this is not unusual. Some people like to give uninvited advice. If someone on the team previously held the position for a long time, they may want to tell the new person how to do the job – their way of course. Someone whose profession includes giving advice might speak out in a non-professional setting. There are many reasons people do this.
Uninvited Advice Disrespects Dignity
The problem with uninvited advice is that it typically disrespects the person’s dignity. A capable and professional volunteer, Iris knows exactly what she has to do and how she plans to do it. Katy jumped in without knowing the plan and made it appear Iris didn’t know how to do the job.
Everyone has dignity. It is our sense of value, of being worthy. We react to assaults on our dignity the same way we react to assaults on our person; we go into fight/flight/freeze mode. It is always in our best interest to protect our dignity and keep others from stealing it from us.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Dignity
When someone tries to tell you how to do something, you may find it challenging to remain civil. Remember, though, that responding with incivility is not the answer.
If someone insults you this way, you have options. Start with a polite thank you. You may then choose to ignore them, or let them know you have other plans; you do not need to justify your plans or position. If you want to send a message, you can then let them know you will ask if you want advice; this might stop the unwanted behavior.
When You Want To Give Unrequested Advice
Before saying anything, ask yourself some simple questions:
- Is it really important?
- Might the person find your words demeaning?
- Do you know the details of the person’s full plan?
- Is it your job to direct the other person?
If the answer of any of these questions is NO, then say nothing. Let the other person follow through with their plans.
If you foresee a significant problem and think you might be able to save time and embarrassment, you can approach them – privately – and ask if they are open to advice. Follow that with questions to learn their plans so your comments are on point. Let them know your concerns. Take the role of a coach instead of instructor.
Offering unsolicited advice is disrespectful and runs a very real risk of making them feel unvalued. When done in front of others, the person suffers further embarrassment. Respect other peoples’ dignity – and your own.