As a woman, not to mention, mother, wife, and sister, I am the fount of wisdom and knowledge. Combined with my talent for managing other people’s lives much more effectively than my own, I offer only the best guidance and advice. Presented with any sign of distress or disruption, I have beautiful words and encouragement designed to be the perfect balm.
Yesterday, my husband and I traveled to see our youngest, a college senior in the midst of wrapping up four years of a dizzying schedule, juggling a part-time job, full-time school, and her creative passion as a key member of a drama troupe on campus. She is not yet sure of what she wants to do after graduation and has yet to mount a full-time job search. As her parents, and with my background as a job search coach, we have been maintaining a mental list of what she needs to do, including following up on some interests she has already expressed. Of course, it wasn’t long before we decided to give her the significant benefit of our experience and insight into her situation. Everything we said was absolutely true, and dead wrong.
“Don’t take this badly, but I really don’t want to talk about this right now,” she said simply.
Normally, I would take this as a sign of my sweet hard-headed baby being obstinate, but something gave me pause. She was absolutely right. This was not the time. She already knew everything we were going to point out, but she had other fish to fry. What she needed was our vote of confidence and conversation without agenda – a break from her “to do” list, not adding more to it.
Somehow, it reminded me of the time many years ago when I was dispensing my profound wisdom to a roommate with a broken heart. I expected her gratitude for my caring enough to offer support. Instead, I heard “Shut up Suzanne.” Her words, much more effective than my own, accomplished the desired result. It was not unkind, just the truth. It was her time to grieve; she had not asked for my advice.
So here’s my best unsolicited advice for you (and me) – when you’re tempted to weigh in on a situation, ask yourself what that person really needs from you. Sometimes, silence is golden.