• Resolving Problems

Handling unwanted advice

Published: July 8, 2016 | By | 13 Replies Continue Reading
How do you handle someone who gives unwanted advice on the tennis court?



I have a tennis group I meet up with twice a week. There is one guy in the group who likes to give me unsolicited advice. I usually just laugh it off or say nothing and then go home and wonder why he keeps telling me what to do.

The other day he told me: “You need to play net more.”

I said: “I like to play baseline.”

He said: “But how many points did you get?”

I said: “It’s just for fun.”

He said: “You want to win, don’t you?”

I didn’t say anything.

This is probably the 8th time I have played with him and I’m thinking about stopping playing with him or should I tell him to stop telling me what to do? I do feel better when I’m not around him. I don’t ever call him to play. He always does a group text and I’ll go play. I would like your advice.

Signed, Fred


Hi Fred,

This guy may have a strong competitive streak and always plays to win so he has a hard time understanding someone like you who plays for fun.

Perhaps he isn’t the best “match” for you—and he might not be someone with whom you want to forge a close friendship. But before you give up your tennis group, next time he says something to you about your play, tell him that you didn’t come for coaching, reiterating that you are playing for fun. Try to say it gently without anger.

If you really like this group, don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to play. Just ignore this guy who gives too much unwanted advice on the court.

Best, Irene

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Comments (13)

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  1. Tara says:

    Hi Clay,
    I agree with the advice given if this person is NOT a chronic verbal abuser. I find in my social groups that I have to deal with at least one person who behaves similarly to the person you describe. I wanted to share with you what I ‘see’ happening in the conversation you wrote above. This seems similar to several situations I have been in and the general advice (to ignore or be kind/friendly) has not worked for me because the person does not know how to communicate healthily (chronically verbally abuses other). If your tennis playmate is like this, I hope this information helps.
    An unhealthy communicator does not ‘hear’ or ‘listen’ to you. That is what I see happening.
    He didn’t hear the first time:
    “You need to play net more”
    “I like to play baseline”
    Notice that your answer implies an explanation (defense) of why you are not playing net more. You answer an ‘unsaid’ question which he never actually asks.
    He doesn’t hear this so he says this:
    “But how many points did you get?”
    Here, he still didn’t ‘hear’ you b/c he is searching to control you (play net more). He doesn’t respect your first boundary (I like to play baseline.)
    In the next part you state another boundary – you play for fun (therefore don’t keep track of points) which btw is offering another explanation (defense). He doesn’t hear this with his reply about winning. Here, the end ‘don’t you?’ is negative control question. The only response is an explanation. And here you don’t respond.
    If this guy is a CHRONIC verbal abuser. He wants to exert power and control over you. This happens when we explain ourselves to others (without them actually asking the question ‘why’ directly to us) and/or silence. Ignoring/silence is also what chronic verbal abusers seek. It is hard to believe that but they like silence b/c they have ‘shut you up’ and that is control over you.
    With chronic verbal abusers (after seeing a repetitive pattern) there are a couple of solutions I have used that work well.
    1. I don’t answer respond unless they ask a real question. To the first sentence (You need to…) I respond with ‘OK’. If they say ‘You bought a new car.’, I say ‘That’s a fact’.
    2. When they ask a question, I answer short and keep it to one or two words (Yes, No, Maybe, etc.)
    “But how many points did you get?” I would respond with: “Enough”
    “You want to win, don’t you?” I would respond with: No
    3. If they make statements in which neither response works I use a modified technique of Suzette Haden Elgin’s Baroque Boring Response (she is a psycholinguist who has written books about chronic verbal abusers). The best way to explain is an example:
    “You don’t play net, that’s where all the points are.” My response: “Speaking of points, I saw the european soccer game last night and the goalie let a lot of points through. It is unbelievable how the game lasts a long time and so few points are scored, there is a lot depending on the goalie”
    The point of BBR is to take what he says and make it into a conversation that isn’t about insulting how you decide to play. It isn’t ‘changing the subject’ b/c it takes practice to get it down so it sounds natural. The idea is that what he says reminds you of a neutral topic so that the insult is missed and you respond to what it reminds you of instead.
    This was long. I hope that you have a few options to take with you the next time as chronic verbal abusers hide themselves well. Best of luck.

    • clay says:

      Thanks for your reply. I like the “change the subject” approach. I will try this. Another weird thing this guy did was he gave me a dampener for my tennis strings and after i put it on he says “i like that sound a lot better.” I didnt ask for a dampener, he pretty much forced it on me. This guy is a real tool. I have not played with him in over month. They took me off the group text because another guy in the group got mad, cussed me out, and stormed off the court and told everyone (Dont call me if clay is coming!). Im hanging around those guys any more which is a relief. I have found a few new people to play with that are more pleasant.

  2. clay says:

    Thanks Irene and everyone for your replies. I am Fred. Sorry if i confused yall by using different names.

  3. Ursula says:

    Is it solely the fact that he is giving you unsolicited advice that bothers you, or is it the possibility that he may be right/wrong that bothers you? Even with the “fun” things that I do, I like to find ways to improve and do things better. This is apparently not how you feel, or else you must think his point isn’t valid. He is perhaps hoping for a more challenging game when he plays you. You may have to get more direct with him to get your point across, i.e. “I don’t want any advice, thank you.”

    • clay says:

      The unsolicited advice bothers me. I dont pay him for coaching lessons and i dont ask for his advice. None of us are on the pro circuit. He doesnt even know how to play a tennis tiebreaker correctly, I just went along with it because its not that serious.

  4. Ariane says:

    Agree with Ben.

  5. Ben says:

    The Tennis court like life has boundaries. There are foul shots and line shots which a referee must determine in or out. We, as individuals, are our own referees. We must make the determination what is in or out in our own lives. Over time I have become more comfortable in my own skin to make decisions that I can live with. If I describe some of them to anyone else they will have their own spin on them. Personally I prefer congenial relationships. I wasn’t brought up in a household where I was told what to do. Both my parents were artistic types. They did not rule over me with an iron fist. I live my life in middle age given that way. I also now take responsibility for my own thinking, behavior and happiness. If someone interacts with me in a way that is unseemly I do not find it helpful to continue on. But I am not you. I am grateful for all the life lessons both good and bad that have brought me to this point. I love life and all that it holds both good and not so good.. 🙂

    • Julia says:

      Right on, Ben. I grew up with creative, loving parents as well — and that parenting style has served me beautifully throughout my life. My mother, who was an artist, encouraged me to create (versus compete) and I try to apply that to all areas of my life. Sounds like you live that way too.

  6. Amy F says:

    Say “Thanks for your input” in a friendly, non passive-aggressive manner, then ignore. Don’t argue or discuss. Use body language to show “you’ve got this”.
    Remind yourself if someone says something that has no value, ignore. There’s no need to get defensive, read too much into their words, project insecurities or have a big discussion when people say things that aren’t valuable. You might ask yourself why the statements bother you so much, since they have no value.

    • clay says:

      You are right on the money. I like this advice a lot. Thanks. I will definitely try this.

      • PeachPie says:

        Yep, I agree with Amy, too. Don’t answer someone who’s being inappropriately bossy and intrusive about the issue that is none of their business, that just validates their interference. Cut them off with a statement addressing their interference instead. Or just ignore them and let their stupid comment drop where they left it.

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