Unsolicited advice

Businessman drawing thought bubble over man Credit: Gary Waters/ Getty Images
Businessman drawing thought bubble over man
Credit: Gary Waters/Getty Images

A short reflection on unsolicited advice

Unsolicited advice — recommendations that others office without first being asked for input — seems to be quite common in my life. Family members, friends, acquaintances, and total strangers offer their advice likely with good intentions of wanting to help me although I don’t ask them to offer input. Some may become bothered when others offer unsolicited advice, but I largely do not become annoyed and can sometimes use unsolicited advice as an opportunity to learn new information, engage with alternative ideas, and explain my reasoning.

Advice others offer can conflict with our deeply held values and be viewed as an unwelcome intrusion into a conversation. Recently, I was speaking with a friend of a family member about poker. He offered what I considered to be uninformed and inaccurate opinions about poker rather than asking me questions; he said, among other things, that I should quit playing poker because all gamblers eventually go broke and that he’s worried I might have a gambling addiction.

I did not become bothered by the unsolicited advice, but instead took time to explain myself as I believed there was a serious lack of understanding on his behalf. Perhaps this person would reconsider his views [in time] and not think of me as a degenerate failure. I think that although he was well-meaning, he simply didn’t approach the topic well due to his own biases and lack of information. Why be upset with someone who doesn’t know that their advice is faulty? Surely the person is well-meaning, but they are simply uninformed. What about unsolicited advice from strangers who may not be well-intentioned?

Perhaps strangers will offer unsolicited advice in an attempt to appear intelligent, outdo others, validate their own perspectives, belittle, or even help others. Strangers’ intentions can be unknown although some context clues can be helpful in inferring intentions. However, I don’t become bothered when strangers offer such unsolicited advice. I can easily dismiss/ignore bad advice and people behaving in a nasty manner. Explaining myself to strangers who may not be well-intentioned may not be a great use of my time and effort.

Perhaps, though, some advice from strangers can be helpful, but this can be few and far between – left to a recipient of advice to determine whether the advice is good or bad. The open-minded, thoughtful person concerned with improving one’s quality of life should be receptive to advice — whether it be from strangers, friends, or acquaintances — they determine as worthwhile.


Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events. Vacula received bachelor's degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University's graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County's Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher's assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.