Verbal Judo: Unsolicited Advice (part one)


  1. Two types of unsolicited advice – 1 – you didn’t their advice 2 – you didn’t have a problem to solve but advice is given anyway.
  2. There’s a collective belief in society that “we shouldn’t give advice until asked”. This belief will not help you in addressing it when you receive it.
  3. Verbal judo involves being kind to yourself and the other person.
  4. Four steps are outlined below so you know what to say to unsolicited advice in a way that you’re proud of and can help deter future unsolicited advice.

The Collective Belief of Unsolicited Advice

There are 2 types of unsolicited advice (from my experience). One is the well known, you didn’t ask for the advice but were given some anyway thereby, making it unsolicited.

A step further is when advice is given and no problem is presented. It’s when you share a story and you don’t think it’s a problem (requiring a solution) and the other person gives advice as if there is a problem that needs solving (this one’s my favourite).

For example, I shared with my friend what’s been happening with my family since I last saw her. I talked about how we all were sick and are now feeling better to go out and do things.

Her response: “You need to take vitamin C supplements…”

She continued on and on about it.

The issue with unsolicited advice is not the person giving it, it’s that we think they shouldn’t do this.

That’s the battle, it’s as simple as “They shouldn’t give advice when it isn’t asked.”

It’s a somewhat collective belief (that many people don’t adhere to) and if you let go of the “they shouldn’t being saying this” part, I promise you won’t ever be bothered by someone’s advice – solicited or unsolicited.

1. Let go of the intentions.

It doesn’t matter. The advice was launched at your face, you can’t change that circumstance. So don’t try and change it with “they shouldn’t have…” (it’s a lose-lose situation).

It’s already been said and now the unsolicited advice is out there lingering in the air like that curry you cooked last week.

The common advice is to look at the other person’s intention and see that they are coming from a well meaning place.

Don’t do that to yourself. We can’t prove anyone’s intentions, even our own, so it’s so freeing to let them go.

Let go of the intentions (plural): let go of the other person’s intentions as well as yours. It doesn’t matter if when you spoke you didn’t intend to solicit advice or communicate a problem.

This is a simple, huge step and it is often the most difficult to overcome in Verbal Judo.

2. Separate acknowledgement and action

Let’s stick to the facts:

You said words about your life. Then the other person says words like…

“You need to take Vitamin C supplements…”

“You should read this book/podcast…”

Before you answer I want you to separate acknowledgement from action. You do not need to act upon the person’s unsolicited advice (or agree with it) in order to acknowledge it.

Most people want acknowledgement of what they said. (They really do). Look at a child, that’s all they want is their parents’ acknowledgment. We’re still the same as an adult.

The act of following it or not has nothing to do with acknowledging another person’s words and story. We don’t all agree but we can all acknowledge.

3. Acknowledge one positive element of the advice

There’s some element that is positive about what they did. Even the simple fact that they shared their story. That’s it. You don’t need to hunt further and make it meaningful and deep. (or even feel gratitude)

One sentence acknowledgements with a positive element look like:

“That’s a great idea.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Wow, you know your stuff.”

“I appreciate you sharing your tips/story.”

This is often the second hardest step in Verbal Judo, especially when we are dealing with someone we don’t want to be dealing with we tend to see only the negative.

You can do this, you can find one positive. If you’re at a loss, remember one statement from the above list, they work in most unsolicited advice situations.

4. Loose the need to explain your decision immediately

There is no need to let the person know if you’re going to follow it or not. You’re an adult and they are too. You both have free will (I’m assuming).

Don’t say you’ll do it if you aren’t even going to consider it. Lying is what gets you into trouble and often encourages more unsolicited advice.

And don’t say you won’t do it and that it’s not in line with your value system. Notice that explaining yourself is you on the defensive. You want to be kind to yourself (not defending your decision) and the other person.

You don’t need to explain what you will and won’t do. And you don’t need to decide right then and there in the conversation.

Avoid the temptation to say “I’ll think about it” even when you know you won’t.

What if the advice keeps on coming

You’ve got a person in mind. Probably in your family or circle of friends.

You’re probably reading this because you’re thinking about that person.

They’ll take their advice giving to the next level. They won’t stop and start to say things like “Do you need to write that down?” or “Here, let’s download that app right now for you”.

I’ve got you covered. Start with the stuff above and then check out the next article, Verbal Judo: Overbearing Unsolicited Advice.


One response to “Verbal Judo: Unsolicited Advice (part one)”

  1. […] If you’ve followed the verbal judo steps in the previous article and the advice giver seems invested in you following through on the advice then there are a few more things to understand in what’s being communicated. […]

%d bloggers like this: