People like to be helpful. We love that. But what about when they’re so helpful they cross into unsolicited advice territory? What about when people tell us out of the blue that we should be following a random diet, trying bee sting therapy or doing something that this one person they heard about this one time did.

Is there anything useful here?
Or should we just ignore it with our best “thanks but you have no idea” smiles?

When I’m given advice sometimes it’s because I’m asking, but sometimes it’s out of left field. Sometimes a person is trying to be helpful and make conversation and they end up putting their foot in their mouth.

Bless their hearts.

But I am a lover of information. And you never know what gems you’ll pick up from the kindness of strangers.

No matter what the advice is, I find that using any combination of these three strategies allows me to gain as much as possible from any piece of information that comes my way. It’s a sure way to turn annoying, unsolicited advice into a win.

1. Listen.

Our first instinct can be to throw unsolicited advice away. “Yeah, thanks,” and then we’re forgetting about what they just said – or worse, we’re stewing over their audacity. But I find that even when it’s the most random of information it can help to just listen.

One time I had a very caring person ask me if I was sure that I didn’t have Lyme disease. I took her concern and care for me and thanked her for the consideration. Yes she was wrong, but it’s nice to connect with someone who truly wants to help.

When we take time to connect and listen with the advice-sharer, we’re doing a few things. First, we’re engaging in one of our basic instincts of human connection. This feels good and can relieve stress. Second, we allow them to be heard, which is important if we need them to then hear us when we’re educating them about how misled they are.

2. Educate.

I get it – sometimes we don’t feel like doing the whole education thing. Some (not all) people have no idea. But when we listen to them and hear what they’re advising is incorrect, we can then let them know how they can truly help loved ones with MS. When we follow through with strategy #1, strategy #2 has a much greater chance of sinking in.

I had someone in HR tell me that people with an illness had to tell their company. That’s just not true. I listened to her arguments, and then educated her on the law. She was grateful to know how to protect herself (and I like to think she was glad to know how to better serve employees). But the big win is that she’s no longer putting pressure to on people to disclose their illnesses.

3. Put the advice through your own filter.

Maybe someone knows first hand that something works, or has valuable information, or knows a beneficial resource or can refer us to a professional that they know can help. When this happens, I listen (a la strategy #1) and then put their advise through the “Andrea Filter”. That means I take what they say, and meld it into something that works specifically for me.

I have a colleague who is nuts about green smoothies and getting amazing results. She can’t stop raving about them and, of course, gave me advice to start drinking them because of my MS.

I listened and then put it through the Andrea Filter. I didn’t do it exactly as she directed, but I did try a modified version and noticed how I felt. The result being I’m equally hooked on green smoothies and now I’m the one giving that advice. I’m not telling people exactly how to do it – I’m leaving that part up to them. But I am introducing the concept and have created quite a few fans.

Getting advice from others can be tricky. We can instantly become suspicious of their motives or tune them out if we’re not in the mood.

There’s always the option to walk away and not say anything at all. Sometimes that’s the route I follow. However there are two ways to walk away – we can be completely at peace and even humored by what was said, or we can be hot and bothered for the rest of the day about the nerve some people have.

When we connect and listen to what they say, no matter how strange it is, then our defenses are dropped. We can still walk away, but we’re not taking that stress with us.

I welcome the unsolicited advice of strangers and loved ones. Following this strategy has led me to an acupuncturist that’s now a valued part of my inner circle. It has allowed me to compassionately correct people so they don’t spread untrue facts. It has also allowed me to detach and not get upset from the craziness that sometimes comes our way.

Next time you find yourself getting advice, try a few of these strategies. Who knows – you may get an invaluable piece of knowledge that can change your life, or the lives of others.