Types of Unsolicited Advice That Cause Stress

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Great insights can come from asking an expert or a trusted, caring friend for advice. Polling a group of people, even strangers, for advice can provide a variety of helpful ideas. But sometimes advice is offered when you didn’t ask for it. New moms, college students, and people who work with the public may be more prone to getting unsolicited advice, but most of us experience it at times. And it doesn't always feel helpful.

Unsolicited advice has the potential to create stress. When someone offers their take on what you could be doing better, it can often feel like criticism. Sometimes they're not judging, and it's our own defensiveness that's making the advice feel like criticism. Other times they are absolutely judging us and our feelings are spot-on.

The stress can be compounded if the advice-giver takes offense if their advice isn't welcomed and followed. When the advice doesn't feel right to you, this can put you in a difficult position and create frustration and even resentment on both sides.

People who offer unsolicited advice may have pure motives (though this isn't always the case), but it doesn't always feel helpful. Understanding their motives, however, can be helpful. People give advice for many reasons, some of which are well-intentioned, others less so.

It can be confusing knowing what to do with all the types of unsolicited advice that we encounter, so it helps to examine where the words might be coming from. Here are some common reasons people are compelled to give unsolicited advice.

Helpful Motives for Unsolicited Advice

Whether or not the advice fits with your values or specific situation, this type of advice generally feels good to get.


Often people offer advice simply because they think they can help, and they want to make your life easier. Their motives are altruistic. Perhaps there’s something they know of that they think would work perfectly with your situation or personality, and they would love to improve your life or reduce your stress.

Particularly if you are talking to them about a problem, even if you're just needing some validation or emotional support, people may assume you are looking them for answers. They might feel pressure to supply those answers.


Sometimes a stranger offers unsolicited advice as a way to start a conversation. Or a friend gives advice to forge a connection. Friends often assume they can help you by offering you a solution, even if you didn't ask for one. This type of advice is well-meaning and can often be helpful.


Other times, unsolicited advice comes from those who have found something that works for them, and they want to share it with the world. They see your situation as a perfect fit for this new product, tool or piece of wisdom that’s made their life so much better. They wish someone had told them about it sooner, so they share.

It's also common for people who have faced the same challenges as you and found what was a great solution for them to want to share. They assume their solution will affect you the same way.

Less Helpful Motives

This type of advice, though generally harmless, can feel less helpful. It is sometimes relevant to your situation, but often not.


People who offer unsolicited advice from this motivation may have a lot of knowledge in a certain area that pertains to your situation. They want to be needed. They share their advice with others in order to feel valued, powerful, and important.


If you’re sharing your feelings and frustrations with them, some people may want to help you by trying to solve your problem. If that’s what you were looking for, great. But if you just wanted a supportive ear or a little validation, sometimes people can’t tell the difference and offer advice instead.

Sending a Message

If you routinely share your problems and feelings with people as a way of venting, but take no steps toward solving your own dilemmas, let’s face it: They might be sick of hearing this. Even if they know that you just want to talk, they could be trying to get you to do something constructive rather than continually emoting.

This only applies to some unsolicited advice situations. If you looking inward, you’ll know whether it applies to you.


Some people, particularly those with narcissistic tendencies, need to be in the role of "teacher" virtually all of the time, or perhaps just like to hear themselves pontificate. Their advice is often long-winded and not always appropriate to your situation. It's more about them more than you. These people often can't imagine that their advice won't be the answer you're looking for, even if it doesn't fit your situation.

Very Unhelpful Motives

This type of advice has more to do with the advice-giver than with you. It can sometimes feel like a subtle snub or a slap in the face, and leave you with an uneasy feeling, even if you don’t know why.

Establishing Dominance

Some advice-givers want to take the role of "more knowledgeable person" in the relationship dynamic. Giving advice puts them in that position.

Passing Judgment

Sometimes when people have seen something in you that they don’t like, they give unsolicited advice as a way to change it. This advice can often feel like an insult more than a genuine attempt to help.

A Desire for Drama

Believe it or not, some people love conflict, love hearing themselves argue, and get a feeling of personal power from telling others how wrong they are. Such people, consciously or unconsciously, tend to give lots of advice as a way of bringing up topics to debate.

A Word From Verywell

Thinking about where advice is coming from and examining your own thoughts and feelings can help you see if perhaps you’re being overly sensitive to unsolicited advice. Doing this can make it easier to handle unsolicited advice.

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