Some years ago, on one of the occasions when I was running late for my weekly coaching session (which happened to be scheduled at a popular athletics track), my coach left me with instructions on a simple programme that I could complete alone as he had to be elsewhere. It was a simple enough programme to follow, just a combination of 200m and 400m repetitions and as there were not too many repetitions I considered it to be a light session.
As I was commencing the session, an athlete leaving the track noticed that I was barefoot and cautioned me that the track had recently been resurfaced and was very coarse. I thanked him for alerting me to this fact and assured him that I would take care and if I experienced any problems I would put on my runners. He nodded and proceeded on his way. Only a short time later another unfamiliar athlete stopped on his way to give me similar advice regarding the coarseness of the track and expressed concern about the fact that my feet were bare. I reiterated my earlier response, again thanking this gentlemen for his concern and taking the time to warn me. On this occasion, however, the advice giver, reacted with anger when he realised that I wasn't going to automatically accede to his advice to wear sandshoes. He verbally chastised me insisting that I would injure my feet if I didn't follow his advice. At this point I decided that the most apt response was to ignore the verbal tirade and to continue with the programme that my coach had assigned me. Needless to say my feet were unharmed, but I will grant that the verbal abuse received was emotionally draining.
Upon reflection, this experience seemed to highlight two of the more common motivations for the giving of advice.
One of the athletes had no problem with having his advice politely declined. He seemed satisfied that he'd discharged his duty of care by alerting me to the perceived risk to my feet, and was happy to allow me to make my own decision in how I handle the matter.
The second athlete verbally berated me in response to my decision to continue irrespective of his advice. There may have been genuine concern for my welfare at the outset, but, given that the person whom is ultimately accountable for my welfare is actually me and nobody else, it seemed that his anger was more likely a reflection of his own self opinionation. He seemed to believe that he actually knew better than I did what my body could withstand.
To the best of my knowledge I'd never even met him prior to that day - what gave him the right to presume to know better than I? And if by some remote possibility he was sufficiently omniscient to make such an assertion, what right did he have to insist that I accept his advice in preference to my own judgment? Aren't I entitled to make my own mistakes and have a learning experience?
Upon reflection, I now recognise that there were times in my life where I'd been active in offering unsolicited advice to others. On a few of those occasions my advice was proferred on a 'take it or leave it' basis. Sadly on many other occasions I can recall feeling frustrated by people's reluctance to recognise value in the knowledge and experience I was offering. At times I pushed my advice on unwilling recipients whom really just needed to be allowed the space to make their own decisions and live their own life rather than allowing somebody else to try and live it for them.
The challenge for me now is twofold. Firstly, having at times been on the receiving end of advice from those whom assert they know better, my difficulty is trying to work out a way to respectfully redirect their efforts towards their own lives whilst allowing me to make my own decisions. (I've tried the "Will you please !@#$ off!" technique many times and it just seems to make the advice givers even more determined.)
Secondly, I need to question myself when proffering advice in order to identify whether my advice is being given for altruistic reasons or whether it simply reflects my vanity. My self opinionation will happily support me in producing all sorts of justifications for asserting my advice should I allow it, (i.e. "I know I'm right because of x,y and z and Abc is too ignorant/stupid/dysfunctional to acknowledge my superior wisdom/expertise so I'd better give Abc some verbal abuse or maybe deploy some additional legislation because it's for their own good!").
Any parents reading this post will probably have recognised that I have not experienced the joys (and accompanying responsibility) of parenthood. My motivation for starting this thread was primarily to share an experience that highlighted to me two of the more common motivations behind the issuance of unsolicited advice between adults. Having said that, the inclusion of additional insights pertaining to advice within the parent child relationship is technically within the scope of the thread and would be most welcome as it may provide a more comprehensive understanding of this contentious subject.
I'd be interested to read of other people's opinions and anecdotes on this topic. (In fact I believe a number of relevant anecdotes may already exist in other threads so no need to regurgitate those - a link or thread title and post # will suffice!)