Friday, June 10, 2011

Unasked for advice is criticism

"Unasked for advice is criticism."

I have never quite understood why it bothered my so much to receive advice from people when I never asked for it until I saw this quote. I do not remember where I saw it, but it has stuck with me ever since.

I am very sensitive, yet proud. I work hard. I do not often ask for opinions, and I only ask opinions from people I really respect. I am a very respectful person. I try to treat everyone I know with respect, but that does not mean I respect them or their opinions. Not that it's a great honor to be a recipient of my respect, but I am pretty stingy with it. And I don't know what someone does to earn my respect. Somewhere along the way, people either get it or don't. One thing I am fairly sure of, though, is those that offer unasked for advice generally do not receive my respect. This is because I do not receive criticism well. And that's exactly what it is.

When I was pregnant there were certain people who I could not STAND to hear from who wanted to tear down my goals to have a natural birth. I'm not sure what their problem was but they had no qualms about telling me that I'll most likely fail. They didn't come out and say, "You're going to fail," but they would say things like:
"Just wait for that first contraction."
"I have given birth naturally and medicated and it doesn't matter."
"If you can't take this, how do you think you can take giving birth?"
"You're crazy."

After my baby was born, there were other comments after I achieved my natural birth.
"You just got lucky."
"You had a dream birth."
Although they do not sound like criticism, these bothered me because it implied that I did not have to WORK to achieve a natural birth. I understand that a lot of what happens in birth is luck, or being blessed, or chance, or whatever you want to say to describe the parts that are out of your control. However there is a LOT in ones control to prepare for your birth experience. You can practice positions, prepare your mind, exercise, eat well, avoid unnecessary interventions, etc.

And yes, I did have a dream birth. It went better than I expected. But I worked hard! It's not as if I just sat there, not feeling anything and a baby just happened to pop out. No. I had to work!

Then people would talk to other people about birth in front of me and talk about, "Well, I had this drug and that drug and it was wonderful." Then they'd look at me and then tell their little impressionable young female friend, "Or, you could just take the pain."

No, my birth wasn't just sitting there taking the pain either. I was responding to the power my body was able to produce. Yes, it hurt. I won't lie. I got to a point where I didn't think I could do it anymore. Thankfully that was near the end! So I was able to experience the wonderful euphoria and empowered feeling that happens after a natural childbirth.

So then new parenthood happened. I didn't mind receiving advice and helpful tips from those I respected. And it didn't bother me really to receive outdated advice, either. It's not outdated advice that drove drives me up the wall. I don't feel a need to share new information with those people. I just smile and nod and say thank you. It's those that like to offer unsolicited advice that is totally contrary to what my heart and instincts tell me to do. For example, my baby was just a few hours old and I heard,
"You're spoiling her! You should just let her cry! Don't pick her up! Just give her a pacifier!" Really? She's not even a day old.

All this unsolicited advice is very powerful. So many young moms go against their own instincts and heart because they can't take the pressure from the unsolicited advice givers. Moms quit breastfeeding because of it. "Feed on a schedule! Don't let that baby control you!" So then the milk supply goes down because breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. If there is not enough demand because of scheduling, the supply goes down. So then baby doesn't gain weight. So here comes formula to save the day.

Or "That baby should be sleeping through the night by two weeks! Let your baby cry it out. She needs to learn to fall asleep on her own." Face-> Palm.

There are so many more things I heard that just drove drive me bonkers.

However, tonight I was humbled by a dear friend of mine.

After spending the past year dealing with all kinds of online bullies, I have become overly sensitive and quick on the draw to "correct" people with evidence, links, and research. I don't generally share information unless someone says something to me first. However, recently I may have misunderstood someone and sort of fired back too quickly.

So this is my question. Perhaps all of those well meaning unsolicited advice givers (I'll just assume they were well-meaning and not trying to criticize me) were just trying to make sure that the information was out there; that the information made it to my ears to take or leave. Perhaps they were overexcited and just wanted to share their experiences. And perhaps they wanted to criticize. Perhaps they really think I am stupid. But I'll go ahead and take it as if they are being well-meaning. So, here I am on the other side of the advice giving. I try not to offer any kind of advice unless someone asks and then I jump at the opportunity. I am excited to share what I have learned. Not because I want to be a know it all, but because I think it's cool! And exciting!

And sometimes, I want to share information just to make sure that they get it. Whether or not they use it, I just want to make sure that they have to opportunity to hear the information. So, finally, my question.

Do I need to err on the side of over-education and risk offending someone? Or do I just need to keep my mouth shut, but risk that person never hearing information that might have saved them trouble in some way? What if something happens and they find out that I never said anything? It reminds me of when my husband and I are riding down the road and I know where we are going and I am pretty sure he knows where we are going because he is driving. Then I notice he is going the wrong way. I keep silent because I think, "Well, maybe he knows where he is going. Maybe he knows another way." And then after a few minutes I ask, "Where are we going?" And he says, "Am I going the wrong way?" And I say, "Yes." And he says, in a very frustrated way, "Why didn't you say anything!!!????" Then I say, "I thought you knew where you were going!" It's kind of like that. How do I know when to say something? I don't want to offend or aggravate anyone. I don't want to come across as a know it all, but I don't want to not say anything in case later they find out I actually knew something.

What do you think? How do you know when to share or how much to share, if at all?


  1. I've never met you, but I was just searching the internet to find the author of the quote "unsolicited advice is criticism" and found your post.. GOOD for YOU!

  2. Thanks! I'd still like to find the author. It's become one of my favorite quotes. If you find it, will you let me know?

  3. LOL...I was just looking for the same thing and came across your blog. You are very profound and really helped me to realize right now that I'm not the only one bothered by this. I think it's something I used to do myself quite a bit, but over the years I have really realized how intrusive it is to "help" other people all the time. Now, I am hyper aware when other people do it, but I'm trying to accept it with grace and move on..

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog! I find myself re-reading my own words all the time and having this debate all. the. time. I think it comes in waves and also depends on the subject. When it comes to birth and pregnancy, I am close lipped. I make my clients pay for my information (I'm a doula) so why should I give it freely to anyone else? I'm also a flute teacher. I make my students pay for the knowledge I have, and once they have it, they tend to do better than those that don't. Why should I just give it away? Sometimes, I just can't resist the urge, but lately keeping my mouth shut has worked for me. Those that truly want to have my advice approach me, and I have also noticed that those that I truly want to give me advice, I approach THEM. It's hard though. Sometimes I just want to shake someone and say, "Please don't do that!!! I had to learn the hard way!!!!"

    1. Hello
      I have a different situation than yours...a daughter..young adult with cancer...a friend who is married to a doctor and is big on nutrition recently not only offered dietrary advice (not the first time) but went to tell me that our daughter's treatments won't work over time; that cancer can hide, etc. I don't need to hear this! I know she means wellnbut I have been depressed ever since I read her email. Thank you for letting me express myself.