The Problem When We Give Unsolicited Advice.

Via Kimberly Lo
on Oct 6, 2013
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Sometimes, the only way to learn a lesson is to make mistakes and face the consequences.

I vowed that the last time I mentioned her would be the last time I mentioned Miley Cyrus. I thought the media would have moved on by now.

Turns out, I was wrong.

The latest chapter in the whole is-she-victim-or-a-media-savvy-mastermind saga involves an open letter that singer Sinead O’Connor wrote in which she urged Cyrus to put her clothes on and warned her that she was being used by record company executives who didn’t give a toss about her or her future.

Cyrus in turn retweeted a bunch of posts that O’Connor wrote a few years ago right before the latter sought treatment for mental illness. This lead to yet another open letter by O’Connor threatening to take legal action against Cyrus and somewhere in the mix, singer Amanda Palmer chimed in with her own open letter to O’Connor taking her to task for what she saw as O’Connor “slut-shaming” Cyrus.


While I have no desire to throw my hat into the ring and write an open letter to any of the parties, (besides, why on earth would any of them listen to me in the first place, given that I am not famous?) this whole media saga has made me reflect on the problems that arise whenever any of us gives unasked for advice.

Specifically, I think back to when I was in my 20s and like many 20-somethings, I was doing all sort of things that were foolish and downright dumb.

Well-meaning friends and family gave me good advice about relationships, career, etc., but it went in one ear and out the other. While my passive-aggressive personality meant that I politely nodded and muttered, “Thanks” and never told them outright to shut up, I was nonetheless seething inside.

How dare they? Who the hell were they to judge me or my life choices?

That latter feeling is exactly one of the reasons why unasked for advice seldom helps the intended party: all of us are imperfect beings.

All of us have made mistakes and most of us by the time we approach middle-adulthood few can say we haven’t made one colossal mistake we really would like to go back and correct.

While not wanting to see someone else go through what we did may be the guiding force in us giving this unwanted advice in the first place, many times the intended party can use it against us. All too often, the conversation then turns to us defending or justifying our past behavior and the original intention of us speaking up in the first place gets entirely lost.

Sometimes, the only way to learn a lesson is to make mistakes and face the consequences.

As it turns out, I eventually learned from most of my mistakes. I did look back and say, “I should have followed the advice I was given.” However, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20.

The fact is, I did not want to believe the truth. It didn’t matter if God/Buddha/Mohammed had come back to earth and given it to me. Denial is powerful, and we often create realities which has little or nothing to do with the actual truth.

In any case, I really wish the practice of open letters to specific people in general would stop, but especially in the case of public figures who write them to other public figures. All—or nearly all of them—have the means to actually get in touch with the intended party.

If they really are motivated by care and concern, then let them know without letting the whole world on it as well.

Also, whether one gives unsolicited advice face-to-face, via an email or a phone call, they need to be very prepared that the intended party may not take it and/or feel downright hostile. Very rarely will someone say (at least at the time the advice is given), “You are right! Thank you!”

Lastly, sometimes the best thing we can do is love: let a person make mistakes, and let them know that we will be there when/if they need us.

Needless to say, doing this can be easier said than done. As humans, we always want to do something. However, sometimes the best and most necessary thing to do is nothing except love.


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Ed: Cat Beekmans


About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.


8 Responses to “The Problem When We Give Unsolicited Advice.”

  1. @MaxZografos says:

    Yeah, especially when the unsolicited advice is "open". However I can't place blame with Sinead either. She stands on the right side of history in my mind. But then again, what do I know? Thanks for a great article.

  2. Sharon says:

    Well said…everyone needs to make their own mistakes. Who was perfect in their 20's? I'd like to know?….I just would NOT have worn tennis shoes with that outfit MC wore.

  3. Eric in Miami says:

    My grandfather always said, "Never offer advice. The wise don't need it and the ignorant don't heed it!"

  4. Pat says:

    Let's not forget why Sinead felt the need to respond in the first place:

    "I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today i’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your Wrecking Ball video was designed to be similar to the one for Nothing Compares."

  5. Lori says:

    Once someone says that I have influenced them it causes me to look at them a bit closer. Sometimes it is quite uncomfortable to see what the behaviors are and to think that I would be the label of influence on those behaviors. I agree with Sinead, once she was 'named' she had a right to defend her own name. This is more about Sinead saying thanks for the kudos but no thanks

  6. Zoe says:

    It looks like Miley was inspired by a scene in Sinead's video and nothing more deeper than that..and she missed the point entirely of what Sinead was/is all about. Sinead pointed out how the music industry influences, manipulates and sexualizes their artists, especially the young ones, for money and how she resisted that. I think we all need reminders about what's really going on behind the scenes and I thank Sinead for shedding light on that. There is no excuse, not even age, for Miley's disrespectful and condescending reference in regards to mental health and it only goes to highlight her immaturity and those behind her. And yes Sinead was named to begin with so she had every right to respond.

  7. I don't think Sinead's advice was entirely unsolicited, and that is being overlooked in this article. Au contraire, she notes that the Rolling Stone and other publications were contacting her to comment on Miley's claim that Wrecking Ball was inspired by Nothing Compares 2 U. While I see how to vulnerable close-up was connect, I feel that Sinead is setting the record straight by explaining to Miley how her video is a perverted ode to Sinead, not a true ode.

  8. Denise says:

    Sinead’s advice was not unsolicited or unasked for. She was asked for her opinion by numerous Journalists and felt that instead of having to repeat herself that an open letter on her opinion was better suited. Seems like a reasonable thing to do instead of being hounded by journalists. Sinead made the mistake of thinking that Miley would understand what she was trying to convey! We live now in a world where taking your clothes off is a lot more important than using your head..and that’s a fact!