Isn’t receiving unsolicited advice just the darnedest thing? That and unwanted personal questions rank high on my list of things I would not wish on anyone. I think both actions breach commonly known rules of good taste and sound judgement. The kicker here though is that those who commit such faux pas would not be self-aware enough to recognize it. So, let me provide you with my litmus test of when you might have crossed the line.
I am a stickler for boundaries in my personal life, perhaps because I am an only child or just my general temperament but over the years I have found that respecting these limits often prevents you from making social missteps. It might seem counterintuitive that a feminist and politically liberal individual like myself would care so much about rules. While I still believe that it’s completely your prerogative to break them, the discomfort you may cause someone with your cluelessness has social consequences. I’ve always felt that what you say and do is written in ink. Of course the most important people will still love you but if you don’t work on these flaws and try to be better, they might not actually choose to spend time with you. What you do makes people think of you differently, that is fact. As a woman who spends her days caring for her family and her evenings writing, staying in tune with literature in my field and working through the next steps of her career, I don’t waste my social time with judgmental know it alls who believe they are the Ann Landers to everyone’s problems. The next time you feel like offering someone a solution to their life’s problems, remember that people wrote to Landers asking for advice, not the other way around.
Of course constructive criticism and knowledge in general are key to having a full and textured life. You only grow when someone expects more from you and it’s always refreshing to hear someone’s perspective about their experiences. I put in the time to research and read reviews before I travel or even purchase some organic cotton bath cloths. The difference between these instances and undesirable opinions is that I choose to seek them out.
We all play a role in someone’s life. Whether you’re a friend or colleague, we will all find ourselves in positions where we want the best for someone. As a mother I know that eventually the job of raising my kids will be done. C and T will be “finished” so to speak and it’s up to them to make their way with (I hope) a set of good values. Eventually, my job will be just to listen. I’ve always felt though that part of the learning process is trial and error. What’s the point of having the answer to every problem? Life would literally be the most mundane endeavor if you didn’t have to struggle at times and figure things out. Also, the choices you make are informed by your personal history and value system; what works for you could be a disaster for someone else. The one advice I’d give, and I assume you want to hear it because you continued to keep reading, is to try to look at the social situation. Before you offer that piece of wisdom ask yourself, do I have an intimate relationship with this person? Does she share her innermost secrets with me or do we operate on a different level? Also, if the individual could retort with “what’s it to you?” it probably means that she either doesn’t care about your take on where she does her shopping or that you are not really in the position to offer advice. So, if you get yourself into these situations, please choose to keep your opinions to yourself, back away and dismount off your high horse. Because even the most enlightened person wants to grab a step ladder to push you right off the mount. Peace.