Have you ever been at work, at home, in an organization meeting, or just minding your own business at the grocery store and have a person approach you providing unsolicited advice or telling you what you should do based on their limited knowledge of what you are doing? It happens to me often and while sometimes, I admit, the information is useful, most times I am struck with an overwhelming desire to tell them to mind their own business. I can understand that these individuals are only trying to be helpful, but often times these same helpful people don’t even have their own affairs in order. Are you asking me when I’m going to complete my project because you’re waiting on me to begin yours?
While being bombarded with questions or advice about my projects or activities is an inconvenient distraction, I have found that I actually waste more time being frustrated and trying to figure out why they’re worrying about it than I would have if I would just indulge these people and answered their questions so I can get back to work. The key is to only entertain 1-2 questions and then end the conversation. If the person is only making smalltalk, “well, I have to get back to work now” is a good way to end it because they weren’t trying to interrupt you, they’re just engaging you in conversation. If the person is just being nosey or trying to involve themselves where they don’t belong, “so what are you working on?” is a great conversation ender because they don’t want it to be about them and they probably aren’t working on anything (hence the time they have to bother you). If it’s a person who just came out of the blue and offered a suggestion or advice that you didn’t ask for, a simple “thanks for that suggestion” works every time.
So for all of you who get interrupted by people asking “innocent” questions or providing unwanted advice, just remember that most of these people really believe they are helping you and there is no harm in letting them. Also, you are under no requirement to accept their advice or involve them in your affairs. Just because they think they’re entitled to information doesn’t make it true.
Lastly, if you’re one of those people who likes to focus on what other people are doing and tell them what they should be doing or ask them a million questions, please know that you are opening yourself up to the same scrutiny you’re providing. When you ask people what they’re doing, they begin to wonder what you’re not doing that leaves you so much time to focus on them. Just as in traffic, when you pay attention to everything except what is directly in front of you, a crash is inevitable. Focus on you and everything else will take care of itself.