Beware of Giving Unsolicited Advice

Have you ever experienced a scenario where you’ve had a cold, a bad foot, or insert your own recent issue – and someone has said “have you tried taking Vitamin C?” or “have you tried daily stretches?” or “Have you tried being more positive?” or “You should just meditate daily.  My aunt did that and her arthritis cleared right up.”

It’s often well-meaning or innocuous.

Now imagine you have a long-term chronic condition – of any kind.  Think of that advice coming from your GP, your physiotherapist, your Occupational Therapist and your support worker.  And then your aunt, your colleague, your friend, the waitress in the place you grab a coffee every now and then.  And then… you get the picture.

And you heard almost every day, “Have you tried yoga?”  “Have you tried cutting sugar out of your diet?”  “Have you tried this new revolutionary herbal supplement?”

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Those people still mean well, they want to help.  In actual fact it can do just the opposite.  It can be exhausting, frustrating, patronising or even rude.  Sometimes you just want to vent – say ugh, I really can’t deal with this pain anymore.  Often they just need some sympathy or empathy in return – not a suggestion to solve it, as it may simply not be solvable, or they can sort it themselves when they feel able.

The vast majority of people with ill-health goes through a long acceptance period.  This can involve a vast amount of research, visiting many specialists, trying lots of treatments including many complementary therapies.  They get to know their body, what is right for them and what isn’t.

Everyone is different, including people with exactly the same condition.  For some people acupuncture may be fantastic, for the next it can be useless.

It’s a fine line – because sometimes someone may have a suggestion that will genuinely help, but please do think before you offer unsolicited advice to a chronically ill person.

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