How do I tell well-meaning people their suggestions are terrible?

I’m not saying that a firm and unvarnished response – “No, sorry, mate, that’s not a good suggestion at all” – is out of the question. For some people, that’s exactly the kind of tone that works. But for others, this is perceived as ungrateful, impolite, or both.


Then the question becomes, do you really know which tone works with which friend or family member? I’m not saying this to question your judgment. I say that because I’m almost certain that part of the problem is people you know and love making assumptions about you. They most likely do not intend to do this, but are using false information to direct their job search on your behalf.

My point is, don’t fall into the trap of making assumptions about the people making assumptions.

How do you avoid this? If you have the time, I think the answer is to sit down with the people who are sending you these unusual opportunities and have a chat. It doesn’t have to be an “excuse me, but I really want you to stop this” chat. It doesn’t even have to be just a conversation about their bad suggestions. But it has to be about how they decided a job was “perfect for you.”

You may find that some people just don’t understand what interests you professionally or where your professional skills lie. You may find that some conversations you had previously misinterpreted. You may find that some people mistakenly believe you want as many jobs thrown at you as possible, regardless of suitability. You may find that some people do not understand your level of experience or skill in a particular area. You may find that some give very little thought to this. Whatever you discover, build your answer around it.

As you said in your question, most if not all of these job ideas are sent to you in good faith. Try to put aside the fact that some are so inappropriate as to be offensive, and respond to them in the same vein.

Email your question to Work Therapy at How do I tell well-meaning people their suggestions are terrible?

Brian Lowry

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