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Why I’m Now Gracious When People Offer Me Unsolicited Health Advice

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I will be the first to admit that receiving unsolicited health advice from people is incredibly annoying. There are those who believe they have all the solutions for all my afflictions and feel compelled to share them with me. This unsolicited advice used to make me cringe, but recently my tune has changed.

We all know people who have bestowed upon themselves an honorary medical degree by watching hours of “The Dr. Oz Show” and perusing Reader’s Digest, and they are ever so quick to share their medical advice.

I know a woman who is convinced taking fish oil will cure all ills and mentions it every single time I see her. There is another lady who believes my long hair is the cause for all my migraines — the cure is only one haircut away! It has been suggested to me that lying my head on a bottle of Pepsi would cure my headaches because caffeine magically passes through the plastic bottle and heals headaches. There is the man who clipped a newspaper article for me with information about the newest gadget, which is “guaranteed” to take away all pain.

Yes, I’ve heard it all. A small percentage of this advice has been helpful. Most of it, however, is completely bizarre.

At one time, all of this advice seriously bothered me. I would walk away from encounters with people offering up their “words of medical wisdom” and be absolutely livid. How dare they presume to know what will make me better? How dare they assume they know more about my health than I do?

My angry reaction gave me reason to pause and reflect:  These individuals don’t know the details of my medical history and the extent I’ve gone to in the search of relief. They don’t know all the doctors and specialists I’ve seen. They don’t know I have crossed state lines for an appointment with a doctor. They don’t know the chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists and herbalists I’ve frequented. They don’t know the wide array of supplements, vitamins and essential oils I’ve tried. They don’t know all the diets I have tried. They don’t know that some of my closest companions are my ice pack, heating pad and TENS machine. They don’t know the amount of money I have spent on my wild goose chase for a cure, but it would surely blow their minds if they did!

All they know is that I am not well, and they heard or read something they think that might help me.

In my small corner of the world, I am generally surrounded by wonderful, well-meaning people. If push came to shove, many would give me the shirts off their backs. I’ve received cards, meals, words of encouragement and offers of help. People are consistently lifting me up in prayer. Those who know about my health struggles are genuinely concerned.

Every now and then, these genuinely concerned folks give me unsolicited health advice. They notice I’m having a hard time and want me to find some relief from my pain. Yes, it makes me want to roll my eyes and respond back with a snarky comment. In that moment, however, I am reminded of their concern for me, and I recognize their concern is better than the alternative: apathy. I’m truly appreciative I’m surrounded by friends and family who care for my well-being because the flip side of that is living alongside people who see my challenges and look the other way.

With this in mind, I have made a conscious decision to be gracious when people offer advice, even when it’s off-the-wall advice. I will offer my “thanks” and simply focus on the thoughtfulness instead of being annoyed. As for the woman who touts the benefits of fish oil every opportunity she gets and suggests I give it a try, I will reply with a “thank you” and be glad she has found something that has helped with her health issues. To the man who took the time to cut the article out of the newspaper for me: “Thank you for thinking of me.”

Responding graciously is not always the easiest thing to do, nevertheless, for me it is the right thing to do. When unsolicited advice comes my way, I will be thankful to be in the company of people who notice my challenges and want to help.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: December 6, 2016
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