Have you ever received unwanted advice or suggestions about your diet or lifestyle? Although the person offering advice is usually someone just trying to help, it can feel like a personal attack. Most of us have been on both ends of this situation, and it can be frustrating for everybody involved. As with any subject you are knowledgeable about, it can be difficult to not share your opinion when the subject comes up. But it’s different when it comes to nutrition and health. What you choose to eat is personal and can also be based upon religious or ethical beliefs; not necessarily what is healthiest. Read on for 3 ways to avoid this social faux pas.
1. Avoid Judgement
This is a tough one. Most of us are very used to judging everyone around us; including ourselves! Nobody is perfect, and judging others happens sometimes despite our best efforts. There are two tricks to avoiding judgement. One is to just keep in mind that you are trying to be non-judgemental. Even if you don’t succeed all the time, it still helps to keep your goal in mind. But the real key is to stop judging yourself. Once you stop being so hard on yourself, you won’t be as hard on others. Being overly judgemental is usually a reflection of how you are internally treating yourself. Consider how you talk to yourself in your head. When you slip up and eat some junk food do you start telling yourself that you are disgusting or a failure? Imagine saying that same thing to a loved one; it would be horribly mean, wouldn’t it? Always make sure you take the time to be patient and supportive with yourself.
Lastly, remember that it is the other persons choice to eat the way they do, live the way they do, and do the things they do. Even if they are making poor food choices. Most people are fully aware that eating junk food is bad for their health, but they still choose to do it. They don’t need you to point out that they probably shouldn’t be eating junk food because its ‘bad for you’. If they wanted to better their health, they would make the effort; there is tons of free information and resources on how to start a healthy lifestyle to choose from.
“In an age of information, ignorance is a choice.” – Donny Miller.
2. Lead by Example
People aren’t going to take any health suggestions from someone who doesn’t take their own health seriously. Don’t bother suggesting things that you can’t even follow. If you tell someone to stop eating sugar just to turn around and eat a cookie, they aren’t going to be too impressed with you. The best way to persuade someone to change their dietary or lifestyle habits is to focus on yourself first. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. If you are having success with your diet, it will show! If you are feeling good and have a healthy glow going on, people will be curious about what you have been doing. Not only will they be curious, they will be more likely to try it because they are seeing that it is working for you!
3. Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice
Unless someone specifically asks if you have any suggestions for their diet or lifestyle, don’t give them advice. Even if you think your advice is really helpful. Unsolicited advice can often feel like you are implying they are doing something wrong. Often people aren’t looking for advice, they are looking for someone to listen to them. Offering unsolicited advice instead of listening can make the person feel even worse about themselves or their situation. It can be hard because when we hear people complaining about their problems we want to help fix it. But sometimes they don’t need anyone to fix it, they just want to be heard.
It is also important to remember that everybody is different and different things work for different people. So even if you have had great luck with certain foods or supplements, the person you are giving advice may not have the same success. Don’t assume that you know more about that persons body than they do.
This last part might seem like common sense, but I’m still including it. The worst cases of unsolicited advice are when the advice is given without a conversation even being initiated beforehand. Would you walk up to an overweight person and start telling them to eat less? I really hope not. Next time you feel like offering unsolicited advice, consider how you would feel if someone did that to you.
If you are on the other end of unsolicited advice, remember that you don’t owe that person an explanation. If someone recommends you an unsolicited dietary or lifestyle change most people immediately feel the need to justify when they haven’t done so already. But it’s really none of their business what you have and haven’t tried. The best course of action is, again, to say nothing! If you didn’t ask for the advice and don’t want to discuss it further, you have no obligation to continue the conversation.
There is definitely an art to saying nothing when being on either end of the situation!