How to Assert Yourself Against Unsolicited Advice

Posted On: September 24, 2019

My past naysayers:
  • “Forget about Singapore. Singaporeans don’t deserve you.” (on hearing what I do for a living).
  • “I don’t need your help. I have three children.” (guy from networking event)
  • My on-off lover of 3 years: “Deep down, I cannot accept what you do for a living.” (on why he won’t want a future with me)
  • “I don’t see you happy running your practice. You’re too ambitious than that.”
I have thanked my naysayers and haters publicly in the past. They have helped me think and re-think about who I am, what I stand for, what I want to do, and why. Without them, I won’t be who I am and where I am at today.
In my 10 years of running my own relationship/ sexuality coaching practice, I have also received lots of unsolicited advice from complete strangers. One would say, “You should…” (telling) even though they haven’t asked, “Have you tried…” (information seeking). Nonetheless, these are well-intentional people who want me to succeed just ignorant about their ways.
How do you deal with naysayers and unsolicited advice? Most people I know would say ignore them. Others would do the whole passive thing and just listen (when simmering with anger inside). I’ve tried it all and gotten better “choosing my battles” and simply agreeing with different people’s point of view.
In my research for my new course Art of Assertiveness, I learned that there are these approaches:
  1. Passive – Just listen; keep opinions to self
  2. Passive-aggressive – Just listen but sabotage/ express displeasure/ disagreement in other little ways
  3. Aggressive – About expressing and winning at all costs
  4. Assertive – Saying what you need to say without any apology or needing to feel sorry for the way you feel
Hence, I’ve learned that these statements work better for me (and feel more complete):
  • “Thank you. I’d rethink (or re-look) about what you just suggested.” (saying I did think/ look at this before)
  • “Sure. I should try this again.” (meaning I did it before)
  • “I appreciate your advice but I know what I’m doing.”
  • “Thank you for your concern. I am doing OK. I rather not talk about work right now.”
I’ve had to learn to assert myself to save my own sanity, dignity, and from yet another exhausting (and unwanted) discussion. It hasn’t been easy but it has certainly helped me to be a happier person!
If you’re interested in my Art of Assertiveness workshop, please drop me an email and/ or subscribe to my mailing list at

About Dr. Martha Tara Lee

Surrounded by friends who were sexually inhibited and struck by dire lack of positive conversations around sex and sexuality in Singapore, Dr. Martha Tara Lee set out to make a positive difference in embarking on her doctorate in human sexuality before launching Eros Coaching in 2009. Today, she remains dedicated to working with individuals and couples who wish to lead self-actualised and pleasure-filled lives.

She also holds certificates in counselling, coaching and sex therapy, and her fourth degree – a Masters in Counselling in May 2018. In practice for more than 10 years, she is the only certified sexuality educator and certified sexuality educator supervisor by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Singapore. She is also a Red Tent Women’s Circles Facilitator from Star of Ishtar.

Often cited in the local media, Dr. Lee is the appointed sex expert for Men’s Health Singapore, and Men’s Health Malaysia. She was recognised as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40′ by Her World in July 2010, and one of ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women’ by CozyCot in March 2011. She has published four books: Love, Sex and Everything In-BetweenOrgasmic YogaFrom Princess to Queen and {Un}Inhibited.

Martha works with individuals and couples in private coaching sessions, and conducts her own workshops. She takes prides in making sure all her workshops are also fun, educational, and sex-positive. This comes easily to her because even though she is extremely dedicated and serious about her work, she fundamentally believes that sex is meant to be fun, wonderful, amazing and sacred. As such, this serious light-heartedness has shone through again and again. For her full profile, click here. Email her here.

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