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Unsolicited Advice

Unsolicited Advice

“I just wish I could do something to help you.” That’s what I said to my husband after we had an exchange where I tried to encourage him to increase his B12 dose and he resisted (with a tinge of annoyance).

A light bulb went on.

Wanting loved ones to feel better

Every time someone says, “Have you tried….” or “Botox worked for my cousin’s boyfriend’s mom,” they feel like I did when I was trying to push a supplement on my husband that he didn’t want. I didn’t suggest he take more B12 because I questioned whether he was doing enough to solve the problem or because I wanted to fix him. I made the suggestion because he was clearly in pain and I desperately wanted him to feel better. I had an idea that I thought might relieve his distress, so I shared it with him.

In the years I’ve lived with migraine, I’ve learned to take a more charitable view toward other people making suggestions about my health. Instead of getting annoyed, I tell myself that they want to be helpful, they have a need to fix anything they see as problematic or are trying to ease their own discomfort with health problems. My experience with my husband gave me even better insight. Those suggestions that seem annoying to me can come from a deeply sincere and compassionate place. Quite simply, when someone you care about is in pain (physical or emotional), you desperately want them to feel better.

(OK, that epiphany doesn’t apply to the person I met at a party five minutes ago. In that case, their advice is probably more about making themselves feel better than it is coming from a deep love for me. But I’m sticking with my revelation for people who know and care about me.)

Receiving unwanted advice is inevitable

Now that we’re in the thick of the holiday season and I’ll be reconnecting with lots of people I don’t see very often, getting unwanted advice is inevitable. I’m challenging myself to take the charitable view. When someone tells me that swimming with dolphins will stop my migraine attacks*, I’ll tell them how much I appreciate their concern (because I do!). Then I’ll change the subject.

Trying to be more grateful for those who care

And I’ll remind myself that they’re not questioning how hard I work or implying that I’m not doing enough to get better. They aren’t saying I don’t do enough research or that my doctor is incompetent. They aren’t minimizing the impact of migraine. Their motivation is much kinder than my defensive self says it is—they care about me and very much want me to find relief.

So when I’m trying unsuccessfully to shield myself from the blinking lights of a garish holiday display or deciding whether drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve is worth the ensuing migraine attack, I don’t have to cringe when I see a meddlesome advice-giver approach. That’s because I no longer think of that person as a meddlesome advice-giver, but as someone who cares deeply for my wellbeing and just wants me to feel better. Instead of being annoyed, I can be grateful that someone care enough to try to help relieve my pain.

*I didn’t make that up. That’s advice I’ve received. Too bad it didn’t come with an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • glassmind
    11 months ago

    So very true!

    I also default to “Thank you for your concern.”

    I have multiple chronic, “invisible” illnesses, and so I do genuinely appreciate the consideration of others

    It also helps me stay hopeful. Maybe dolphins would cure! Lol

    It’s like improv. Just say “Yes, and…” to feel more joy and harmony, even if the suggestion is quite silly or has already been tried.

    Thanks again for explaining so well the upsides to unsolicited advice.

  • tjayinoz
    1 year ago

    I have to say that I knocked my weekly massages and Jenny Craig meetings on the head in November because my massage lady and Jenny Craig consultant are two of the most “caring” and “helpful” people with new suggestions about my migraines every week – by November I just couldn’t face anymore.

    So I’ll go back to them in January and try to remember that their advice does come from a place of love and their wish for me to feel better.

    Thanks for this article.

  • Neisee
    1 year ago

    EVERYDAY I’m asked, “Have you taken your meds?” Being a chronic migraineur, taking my medication is not something I normally forgot, at least not for long. I try to just calmly answer yes and go on with the conversation. There are times though, I want to come back with, “No, why would someone with my problem take her medicine? I enjoy being in more agony than normal.”

  • Toby51
    1 year ago

    A very helpful article. Thank you.

  • Luna
    1 year ago

    Great article.

    “I tell myself that they want to be helpful, they have a need to fix anything they see as problematic or are trying to ease their own discomfort with health problems. ”

    This can apply to people who know you and people you just met. Some people are fixers, like the repair guy at the computer repair shop. There really are people who care about others whether they know them or not. But I’m often impatient and need to learn to be more polite.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Kerrie,

    Beautiful article! Thank you.


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