Relationships can be tricky, and intimacy can be tough to build.
Controlling habits can arise when relationships feel unsafe or vulnerable.
Control in relationships can be hard to detect because it may seem like you are helping someone or fixing a problem. These outcomes can seem nice, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they are kind.
One form of control can be unsolicited advice.
While it may feel empowering to help someone solve their problems or even do it completely for them, solving someone else’s problems is not beneficial. Unsolicited advice can be a type of manipulation because you may be trying to control an outcome for another person.
Even if you have good intentions, the outcome can be detrimental to you. It is not your job to give advice to someone unless they have explicitly asked for it.
When you give unsolicited advice, it can be a way to avoid looking at your own problems so that you don’t have to change anything about yourself. It is not helpful to your mental health to do this.
The result of unsolicited advice may include learned helplessness, unrealistic expectations, caretaking, and codependency.
If you are a parent, it is still not necessary to give unsolicited adviceto your child.
To help grow a problem solver, your child may have to fail. This can be a painful experience and this is how a child develops independence as well as healthy habits.
By saving your child every time, you are not allowing them to build self-trust. Your intention may not be to create learned helplessness, and the outcome may still be learned helplessness.
Giving advice can be okay if it is solicited. Otherwise, take a pause instead. An opinion can often be confused with judgment, which makes building an emotional attachment in a relationship more difficult.
Here are some things you can say instead of giving unsolicited advice:
Would you like my opinion or for me to just listen?
That sounds hard. Would sharing my experience help?
What would you like the outcome to be in this conversation?
I’m not in a space where I can listen right now. Is it okay if we talk about this (set an exact time)?
What feels most helpful to you right now?
Unwanted advice is tempting because it can help you to be the hero in a situation.
Codependency thrives in circumstances where you wish to be needed so that you can feel wanted.
Even if you are a therapist, your friends and family members need to find alternate treatment options. You are not your family and friend’s therapist.
To build intimacy and vulnerability in relationships, the first step can be to genuinely listen to people you care about most. This may mean that you take a pause in conversations.
Solving problems for others can lead to unbalanced interpersonal relationships and unhealthy reliance on nonprofessionals. When in doubt, think about how to use the tool of empathy in conversations.
You likely don’t want unsolicited advice, and this is the same for others as well.
Unsolicited advice may also be confused with helpful advice. Even if your advice giving paid off, it is still not okay to manipulate a situation with unsolicited advice.
It may have worked once, however, it can still lead to relationship issues and lack of empathy in truly hearing and trying to understand the other person.
If you have been through a similar situation as someone else, sharing your opinions or experiences can shut someone down and can create distance in the relationship.
Unless someone asks for your opinions explicitly, listen.
You may have good advice waiting for someone else, and it is still not necessary to share it with them. To build emotional intimacy, you may need to use discretion. Not every word needs to be spoken.
You may not do this perfectly, and that is okay. No matter the relationship, unsolicited advice is not helpful when trying to create intimacy, safety, and vulnerability.
Bad advice can lead to relationship problems with your business partner, a family member, a loved one, or in your romantic relationships. It may be perceived as criticism.
Though you can’t control someone else’s reaction, you can control your actions in a situation. You may have good intentions, and bad advice can hurt feelings quickly.
Advice giving is a form of over responsibility and can result in less intimacy.
When you need guidance, a therapist can help you to identify patterns in your relationships that can be helpful to address.
You may be surprised at how a safe relationship with a therapist can help you to create vulnerability in other spaces.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of Denver therapists who provide teen therapy in Denver, young adult therapy, adult therapy, family therapy and other counseling and therapy in Denver and throughout Colorado.
We specialize in relationships, codependency, communication and boundaries and provide supportive therapy for people struggling with life transitions, trauma, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, ADHD, negative body image, and more.
Our clinicians are trained and comfortable working with people who struggle with thoughts of suicide and work collaboratively with our clients and their loved ones to maintain safety through a trauma-informed approach.