Monday, August 4, 2008

unsolicited advice

As I was leaving church yesterday afternoon, I got sidetracked by some small talk with an acquaintance. It was a pretty mundane and surfacy kind of conversation, mostly about the kids going back to school, which was when I made the mistake of getting slightly personal. I mentioned I was nervous about Danny being in a regular classroom, since he had been in a class with less than 10 kids for the last two years. The special ed. class he has been attending was focused on kids with sensory problems, where the one he will be in this year is not. I next mentioned Danny's speech delays, which brought on the advice.

She informed me in no uncertain terms that I need to make sure Danny has plenty of opportunities for social interaction, which should take care of his speech delays in no time. I found myself cataloging for her the many, many ways I surround Danny with other kids. Then, I stopped and thought, "What am I doing?!?!? Why am I justifying myself to someone who knows nothing about me or my kid?" For some reason, this just rankled me. Does she really think that it never occurred to me in all of Danny's 5 years of life that he needs social interaction? It is almost amusing to think about. I see this scenario: now that I have been elightened by M. I start taking Danny to play groups and all of a sudden, oh my goodness, Danny can talk! It's a miracle!

I have been seeing therapists and doctors for Danny and his SPD and speech delays for three years. I feel like a bit of an expert on him myself and it just annoys me when someone who has never even spoken to my child (and has no training in any kind of field that would be remotely helpful) thinks they are an expert. Why do people think they can solve all my problems after only hearing about them for 1.5 minutes?

What is it about certain people who think that no matter what the topic, they know more than anyone? I cannot tell you the number of times I have received unsolicited advice like this. Just the other week when I mentioned that I had been to the doctor for my foot and that it was all better, an acquaintance launched into a flurry of advice. Apparently, her mother has foot pain (which, by the way, has never been treated or diagnosed by a doctor) so the woman had to pass on all the ways her mother has self-treated the pain. Does she think her mother actually knows more about my foot pain than my orthopedic doctor who has not only x-rayed my feet, but did an ultrasound, as well?

I know I need to take all this advice with a grain of salt and just say something benign like, "There's an idea," because I am sure more often than not, the advice is well-intended (if misguided). It does make me wonder how often I launch into advice when none was asked for. I think I will pay attention to this and try to shut my mouth and listen instead. Isn't that what most people are really looking for, a listening ear? I mean, really most of the time we probably already know what needs to be done, but we just want to be heard and validated, right?

4 comments:

Amy Jane said...

Patty,

I sure hope I've never been guilty of accosting you with unsolicited, annoying advice! :)

Thank you so much for telling me how to do the link thing on my blog. It's so simple, now that I know what to do. I'm a dork. :)

How are you feeling these days? I sure miss you...

Me

beckbot said...

I've thought about this before and I think it has a lot to do with the way women relate with each other: trying to be supportive and therefore generally prone to giving advice. I realize that Danny's situation is not the same as despairing over how to remove soap scum buildup, but for someone who has not experienced the challenges your family faces, these challenges might seem easily remedied. I'm not sure if you were able to explain Danny's diagnosis (sorry if that's the wrong word there), but, really, there are so many people who don't know much about lots of things (myself included). When I've found myself in that situation (specifically with regard to fertility), I usually do the "Oh yeah, I've heard of that. I've been working with my specialist/therapist/trained professional on that one already" kind of thing. It tends to shut 'em up.

Susan said...

My fave is when people tell me to just follow Jo Frost- because you know she is genius. Yes for most kids but sorry these problems won't resolve in an hour or a week:)

kia said...

I get this all the time. Especially with Little Man's food issues. People think they have all the answers 'cause they had "normal" kids. It is seriously annoying and actually, quite degrading. Basically, they're telling you that they know better and that if they'd had your kid, they'd have done better.

Sorry to rant. I'm really passionate about this, 'cause I feel like there are some people in my own life who judge me when,really? They haven't got a clue...