The Hula Lesson
I was having a delightfully enjoyable time gracefully following the arm movements until a lady next to me, who had a measure of hula proficiency, decided to take it upon herself to give me her advice. “Rotate your hips,” she said sternly, “you need to move your hips, bend your knees, watch me.” The abruptness of her admonishment struck me with the feeling that I had personally sullied the hula dance. I didn’t say anything. It stopped me in my tracks and my concentration went as well. It took me a moment to regain my composure as I ignored her and let her words fly past me.
Is it Your Job to Fix Another Person?
Find out the underlying motivation you have to correct others or give them your opinion. Perhaps you are critical of yourself and find that you unconsciously criticize others. Observe the effect on others and the areas you are most critical about. What effect does your negative self-talk have on you? You may have a compulsive need to do things a certain way. Is there only one “right” way? Is it causing harm for others to do it their way? What need do you have to teach people your way? Let go of rigid adherence to specific ways of doing or thinking and see things from multiple perspectives. Allow others to make mistakes and allow yourself to learn new methods and experiences from them.
Even if you truly believe you know a better way of doing something giving advice that is not asked for is usually not welcome. Instead of being supportive, it often has the opposite effect of disheartening the receiver. When a person is having doubts about their ability, not only will they be reluctant to take your advice but they also may be inclined to stop trying to learn a new task. If you bluntly give advice or rashly take over a task from someone, you are making assumptions about their abilities and knowledge. It is dismissive and belittling. Being controlled feels disrespectful and will often bring up a reaction of anger and stubbornness.
Recently, I was in the grocery store and turned my cart into an aisle where an elderly gentleman was stooped over and shaking all over. He looked weak and in trouble. Instead of rushing in, I stood there for a moment and just observed him. He had a portable oxygen tank and seemed to be breathing just fine, but his shaking worried me. I was thinking, “He looks like he needs help and no one else is around. What if he is having a heart attack?” I went up to him and asked, “Sir, are you alright, do you need help?” He turned and looked at me and replied, “No, thank you dear, I am fine.” His speech was clear and indicated his honest desire to be left alone. He did not need or want my help. Just then a woman came around the corner into the aisle and went up to him. I assume it was his wife. She had been gathering groceries while he waited. I was relieved and glad that I did not act hastily. He was in good hands and I did not infringe upon their privacy by asking the reason for his shaking. I respected his dignity by asking permission to assist and honoring his decision to decline.
When you ask permission, you are being thoughtful and helpful. You are keeping your ego in check while allowing the autonomy and freedom of another.
Respecting Yourself is the Antidote on the Receiving End
It may feel awkward but when you realize your value, you will be able to trust that setting appropriate boundaries is good for you and for your relationships. You will no longer attach to the pain of others and make it your own. Feeling upset or rejected from criticism and unwarranted advice will be a thing of the past.
Whether you are on the giving end of unsolicited advice or on the receiving end, realize that your self-esteem is involved. When you have healthy esteem you show respect for others and know that you deserve respect from others.