How to Handle Unsolicited Advice

I once participated in a team building effort for my facility’s management staff.  The drive to build a more cohesive team included consultant led individual interviews, 360 degree feedback and an off-site group activity day.

During my individual interview, I wore gray pinstripe dress pants with a short sleeve turtleneck sweater. I was taken aback when the consultant offered unsolicited advice that she thought I dressed “too young.”  I think what most caught me off guard was that the comment wasn’t followed up with any advice on what she thought would be suitable for the workplace. 

My company’s dress code is business casual so I normally I stick to dress pants and a solid color button down shirt, throwing in some different accessories from time to time.  If asked to critique my own workplace wardrobe I would say I consider myself fashionable but not “too young.”  

The entire situation got me to thinking. What is the best way to handle unsolicited advice? 

Considering my manager had never approached me about my attire and confident in my own abilities to dress myself as a grown woman, I decided to not put much merit into the consultant’s comment and not let it get me down.

During our careers we will all receive advice, feedback and criticism and some of it may very well be solicited and constructive. We shouldn’t be afraid to receive advice from others as it could play a part in helping us to grow as a professional. On the other hand if, and when, you do receive a piece of advice that you question, ask a valued colleague for their opinion on the matter. Finally, trust in yourself and have confidence in your own capabilities knowing that you made it this far in your career through hard work, experience and dedication.

And, when it’s all said and done, it’s your opinion that really matters most of all.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Heather Rose

Heather Rose, PHR is an HR Professional with over 6 years experience supporting top organizations' HR functions. In addition to her career in HR, Heather enjoys writing about her life adventures, reading and traveling. You can connect with Heather on LinkedIn.

11 Comments

Buzz Rooney

Unsolicited advice is tough to take or make sense of because it is usually very critical and isn’t coupled with legitimate suggestions for improvement. I have smilar feelings about sarcasm/teasing in the workplace. It is a cowardly way of sharing your thoughts on the other person.

Your suggestions on how to handle it are rock solid. It’s always good to check the advice and your reaction to it with someone you know will be honest with you. And I love Debbie Brown’s “thank you for your input” line — I will be putting that to good use!

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Sue Thompson

An elderly teacher I used to follow would say, “Have the same sense of an old cow–eat the hay and leave the sticks.” If it is criticism you can use, use it. If it’s unproductive, discard it. (Someday, it may come back to you as productive. We can’t always handle the truth.)

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Debbie Brown

Recently, someone shared their line “Thank you for your input”- I have used it and it works in a lot of situations. Then you have the power to used the information however you choose. Good luck!

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Jan Southern

I think my granny had a good approach to unasked for advice. She would politely listen to what the person had to say, and then she would go ahead and do what she had intended to do all along. She was one of the most relaxed people you could ever have met.

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Katherine Duffy

I agree with Jackie, and I think we’re in good company. Marshall Goldsmith often talks about handling feedback. His advice is the same, to say thank you. Feedback is meant to be a gift, and challenge your existing assumptions. As Heather points out – you don’t have to take it. But like a gift, even its its not something you’ll use it’s important to consider if it will help you, and say thanks.

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Jackie Cameron

It was a hard lesson to learn – and it took me a long long time – but I now thank anyone who gives me unsolicted advice without any commitment one way or the other I say something like “thank you – I will give that some thought” and then will review what they said from a couple of perspectives

1 what was their agenda for telling me
2 how will I use that advice – if at all.

The best advice I ever got ( unsolicited – but it was from my husband and I know what his agenda is !) was “just because someone says it does not make it true”

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