ATTITUDE RECONSTRUCTION: A BLUEPRINT FOR BUILDING A BETTER LIFE
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Posts Tagged ‘Unsolicited Advice’

Stop Being the Middle-Man in Family Affairs

FamilySome of our biggest emotional challenges come from family dynamics. It’s a rare situation where everyone in the family gets along. If you tend to be the peacekeeper, you’re usually the one carrying around the heavy emotional burden of the discord.

If this role is getting old but you can’t seem to stop yourself from meddling in the middle, read about the session below with my client Tom. You’ll find practical tools on how to let others handle their own drama, without getting caught in the crossfire, no matter their age.

Big-hearted Tom just wanted the three brothers and their families to get together and celebrate Bob, the eldest sibling, big 40th. But there was a problem. David and Bob were barely talking. Bob was upset (and experiencing stomach aches) over David’s wife borrowing money two years ago and never paying it back. Bob wanted Tom to take his side.

Tom had recently visited Bob, who was still going on and on about the unpaid loan. Adding to that, on the phone and in texts, David kept wanting to know what Tom and Bob had discussed when they were together.

The biggest (and most challenging) thing for peacemaker Tom was to not get drawn into the middle. He needed to tell Bob he saw how much pain he was in, but he wasn’t willing to arbitrate in business that was between him and David. He reminded Bob how much he valued their brotherhood, but he didn’t feel right about talking about David and his wife, since he had no idea about their side of the story.

In terms of a gathering, Tom felt it was best to put this off until the spring. He didn’t see himself trying to make the visit happen until David and Bob resolved their conflict.

So, to take care of himself and work to get out of the middle, he practiced saying, “I don’t want to talk about it. Please take this up with David/Bob yourself.” Tom repeated this message over and over like a broken record, until he felt confident that he would not succumb to the pressure to intervene.

When he felt rooted in the freedom of not getting caught up in the middle and letting people communicate directly, Tom called Bob and spoke his truth and delivered the message that he felt it was best to put off their reunion until David and Bob cleared the air.

Tom wanted to tell Bob it would be better if he held positive thoughts about David and his wife for his own sanity and so he wouldn’t continue to have digestive issues. As the counselor, I stepped in and told him that was a dicey proposition. Giving unsolicited advice is never a good idea. If Tom wanted to offer his perspective, he needed to first ask and RECEIVE permission before tendering advice.

Then to shore up his relationship with David, Tom made the same communication, offering him reassurances and reminding him “I like our relationship and want to share that.”

It took a while but David finally reached out to Bob. In talking and listening it became apparent to both of them that there had been a misunderstanding about the loan, money, and a payback schedule. They were both relieved after they spelled out a clear agreement. Both confessed how much they had missed hanging out with each other and their families. They were eager to keep the channels of communication open going forward and make plans to get together for the belated celebration.

TOOL: DON’T TAKE SIDES AND STAY OUT OF THE MIDDLE

Regardless of age, stay out of the middle and encourage family members to talk directly with those that they have the issue with. You need to let their plight go. It’s not yours. You’ll just be fueling side-taking accusations and muddy the waters even more. They need to learn how to speak what’s on their minds in a constructive manner.

Your job is to focus on enjoying each person individually and not get sucked into a discussion where you are expected to take sides. Just offer encouragement for them to “go direct” and praise them for their successes.

Also, giving unsolicited advice is a slippery slope without checking and double- checking to see if the recipient is really open to hearing your opinion. Your job in the midst of family upheaval is to take care of yourself and relish a new authentic role rather than that of the perpetual peacemaker.


Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years working with clients, students, couples, and families as a licensed marriage and family therapist. It is the subject of her award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.

How to Handle Unsolicited Advice

We all know some well intending (for the most part) souls who are happy to give us directives in everything from how to wear our hair to why we need to get a ‘real’ job to why we’re the reason our kid is failing algebra. Mom might tell you to ditch the boyfriend or stand up to the boss. Instead of biting your tongue or lashing out in frustration, it’s time to adopt a strategy to deal with all the unsolicited advice you’re getting in your life.

Their well-meaning 2-cents-worth is what I call, “you-ing.” They are telling you about you without your permission. That’s the opposite of the first Attitude Reconstruction communication rule, which is “talk about yourself” — stick to your “I.” You-ing naturally elicits anger. They are out of their own back yard. If you aren’t ready for or don’t want feedback, it’s counter productive.

According to Attitude Reconstruction, when you’re drowning in the sea of uninvited advice from others, remember these six tips:

  1. Unsolicited advice and opinions mean that someone believes they are entitled to tell you about yourself without gaining permission. The reality is that we are each responsible for ourselves. That’s quite enough of a task in itself.
  1. When unsolicited advice comes at you, don’t argue with it. Remember that you are just the target of their misplaced anger, that it’s not personal, and that you are fine just the way you are. Blasting them back won’t help. Don’t look for the grain of truth in what’s being said. Don’t be overly polite and let others go on and on just to hear themselves talk. Instead, be the matador, put out your cape, step aside, and let the “bull” go flying by.
  1. Then lovingly but firmly speak up about what is true for you. Tell them it’s not helpful to you to receive unsolicited advice. Maybe mention that support and appreciation work much better for you. Matador their retort to you speaking up. Don’t get sucked into their rationalizations about how they are just trying to help. Acknowledge their good intentions and be a broken record, such as “I‘m getting angry right now because I’m not wanting any advice right now.”
  1. If they don’t hear and acknowledge what you’ve said — what is true for you right now – lovingly say it again, as many times as you need to, until they stop. Repeat each time they do it again. “I know you’re concerned about me, but I’m really not looking for input right now. When I need it, I’ll let you know.”
  1. And finally, appreciate them at times when they are not giving advice. Deep down, we all relish compliments, even though we may resist at the time.

 

Learning to tap in and listen to your own soul’s advice is always the biggest source of wisdom. But when others are bent on telling you the way your life needs to be, remember to honor yourself, to speak your truth and to say, ‘no thank you.’

 

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Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist, educator, author, and speaker.  Meet Jude

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