Ask Amy: Family member seeks advice about giving advice
Dear Amy: Can you help me to understand the boundaries of offering advice? COVID-related circumstances mean my 35-year-old daughter must make an employment decision involving relocation.
From personal experience, I have insights into her potential relocation choices that she does not have. What I know on this topic could affect her ultimate happiness.
She hasn’t asked for my insight, so I haven’t given it.
Should I anyway?
I suspect she’d be OK with what I have to say, but her husband might react badly. He’s an in-charge kind of guy who might interpret his mother-in-law’s input as meddling rather than helping. — Reluctant Adviser
Dear Reluctant: I have a faded sticky note stuck to the bulletin board over my desk: “Unsolicited advice is almost always self-serving.”
For a professional advice-giver, it is vital that I rein in my own tendencies toward friends and family. I’m not always successful.
However, the wise choice not to offer unsolicited advice does not mean that you should always proactively keep a lid on things, certainly if you possess actual insight (and not just a knee-jerk reaction).
One way to handle this would be to invite your daughter to solicit your advice.
You can say, “I have some insight about your relocation ideas, based on my own experience. I don’t want to get in your way, but if you’re interested in hearing my thoughts, let me know and we can talk about it.”
You are your daughter’s mother. Her husband is not in charge of her conversations with you. If she asks for your opinion, you should offer it, regardless of how you think he might interpret it. Whether your daughter chooses to follow your recommendation should be completely up to her - and so you should detach from any particular outcome.
Dear Amy: My husband and I are retirees, married for 37 years. He golfs regularly with “Brian.”
I think Brian is a know-it-all, and his wife “Karen” is self-centered. I feel we have very little in common with them, and frankly, they don’t seem very interested in us. Both of their children have been married within the last two years, and we were not invited to the weddings, and they don’t send us Christmas cards or acknowledge other special occasions.
However, despite their lukewarm attitude toward us, my husband frequently makes plans to get together with them.
For instance, my husband wanted to miss our daughter’s college graduation (a major event, in my opinion) so we could travel with this couple, and he also wanted me to “not tell them it’s my birthday” in order to go to another event he had invited them to (pre-COVID).
I’m not real eager to spend time with this couple, but how do I get my husband to let them go?
I don’t understand why he doesn’t get that their vague interest in us indicates that they’re not into us, and he’s been offended when I pointed out to him that they don’t make much of an effort to get in touch.
Any ideas? — Dismissed
Dear Dismissed: It sounds as if your husband is somewhat captivated by this couple — to the extent that he has developed social myopia, which I define as an inability to perceive social cues accurately.
Some events — such as college graduations — are nonnegotiable and absolute obligations for couples to attend together. You were right to insist on a course correction.
In order to communicate about this, don’t dwell on your personally dim opinion of “Brian” and “Karen.” Ask him with an open attitude to describe why he enjoys their company so much. Does he believe the relationship is balanced?
Tell him, honestly, that you believe they aren’t very interested in a close friendship, and that he can choose his own golfing companions, but he can’t choose your friends for you. If he makes plans or accepts an invitation without discussing it with you in advance, you could choose to stay home.
Dear Amy: You should completely refrain from offering your obviously liberal and biased political views. Your constant fear-mongering about the pandemic and defense of the liberal agenda has gotten very old and will lose you many readers. — Done With You
Dear Done: I do my best to truthfully answer questions sent to me. My advice regarding the pandemic is not my opinion but that of scientists at the CDC. My political agenda, such as it is, is to promote peaceful communication and understanding. This is in itself quite threatening to some readers, angering both sides of the political divide.