What some of the most annoying people in my life have taught me

As he starts talking, my heart sinks. I’d chosen him specifically because I thought he was different from the others. And yet… here he is, doing the same thing they all do.

I’ve been going to a boxing gym on and off for a few years, but I only started taking it seriously this spring. To be clear: I have zero interest in ever boxing anyone’s face. But after a life coach I’d worked with suggested that I find a way to express some, shall we say, negative emotions I was experiencing  — in a way that wouldn’t damage any of my relationships — I got back into classes.

I’m now going two to three times a week, and I fugging LOVE it. I have a running joke that boxing classes are my new girlfriend. When I’m in them, my internal monologue is usually THIS IS THE BESSSSSSSSST I WANT TO BE HERE FOREVVVVVVVVERRRRRR (I mean, those times when it’s not “wait! Was it jab-cross-left hook-right uppercut? Or jab-cross-right uppercut-left hook?” — I have horrible short-term memory for the sequences). When I’m not in a class, I am counting the hours until the next one, or feeling excitement when I see it on my calendar. When I’m rolling my wraps back up after a class, I think, “Soon, you’ll be back on my hands, under my gloves!!!!” This week, I was out of town in a different city. Driving around, I saw the sign for a (different) boxing gym and my heart LEAPT, in the way that only reminders of a crush can inspire.

I love everything about the boxing classes. Except for the Bro’s At The Boxing Gym.

The Bro’s At The Boxing Gym LOVE giving boxing advice. Our classes often involve parterning up on a bag: the teacher gives you all a sequence to remember, then you each take it in turns to hold the bag while the other person punches. When I’m holding, I try and look anywhere but at my partner, in case they’re like me. I’m not at the gym to get good at punching faces. I’m there to get out any aggression I have, and to make myself feel amazing. So when I’m punching, I want to be left TF alone.

The Bro’s do not get this. They lean over me, murmuring things like, “you need to twist your body more” “move your hip as you come forward” “get in a little bit closer.” Even when they say, “Nice!” I want to be like DUDE STOP COMMENTING.

In this particular class, the guy I’d chosen as a partner hadn’t looked like a Bro At The Boxing Gym. He didn’t have the same expensive-but-worn-looking equipment or confident swagger. But as soon as I start, there it is. “Your hook needs to come from your shoulder.” The teacher, who’s walking around to check our form, had already twice seen me and said “Great Job!” Both times he’d seen Bro, he’d offered him a small correction. As Bro is telling me, “bend your knees more” I want to point that out to him.

But I also want to just have a nice gym class and not get into it with someone I’ll likely have to see again next time, and definitely not in front of people I’ll have to see several times a week. The teacher says, “Ok, now freestyle for two minutes!” and I feel a rush of thrill, because this is where I can pick the punches that get out the most fury (hard hooks to the face, either side works). About halfway through, Bro leans over and says, “do some uppercuts.” IT’S FUCKING FREESTYLE, MY BRO. THAT MEANS I GET TO CHOOSE.

Next class, I choose my partner even more carefully. It’s a youngish woman, who I’d noticed having to borrow a pair of boxing gloves when we arrived. Good, if she’s at her first class, she’s unlikely to try and school me. Before it’s her turn on the bag, she says, “I’m punching softly because I’m not wearing wraps” and I smile and nod in understanding. Wraps are the long bits of bandage-like fabric that you wind around your knuckles and wrists to keep them protected inside the gloves as you punch. Each wrap is about three kilometres long, and involves a level of folding so complex it would flummox an origami master. Before my first class, I hadn’t known I’d need them either.

After class, she and I do the customary boxing glove fist bump to thank each other for partnering up. Then, remembering how nervous I was when I bought wraps after my first class, I lean over and say, “once you get wraps, there are some great videos on youtube that show you how to do put them on.”

She smiles a tight smile and says, “Yeah, I know how to. I just forgot them today.”

“Oh, ok, cool! See you next time!” A little embarrassed, I grab my stuff and go home.

But before I reach my front door, I feel horror and shame wipe down my body.



Going back to the boxing gym has had me thinking a lot about unsolicited advice and how much I’ve always loved to give it.

(O rilly, Marsha? And you say your chosen profession is Coach and Trainer? Shocker)

When I first stumbled into the world of coaching, I couldn’t BELIEVE that there was a job where I could actually be paid to do the thing I had LITERALLY been doing for free my whole life. When I launched my business, I started out teaching networking — how to make friends in your industry. This was information that, previously, I’d corner musicians at parties and make them listen to. If you look at my testimonials page, at the bottom you’ll find a swathe of people who work in the media; they are all my old interns from when I worked in radio, onto whom I pushed this advice (and, later, begged to give me a write-up for my then-new business).

My partner at the time also felt like this career move made a lot of sense. Periodically, he’d be like “STOP LIFE COACHING ME!”

My subsequent long term sweetheart didn’t use those words. But she would point out how often I was unable to listen to what was going on for her without immediately making suggestions on how she could fix all her problems. In spite of her not having asked me to. Just like I don’t ask the Bro’s At The Boxing Gym.

I also had a lot of conversations with her about the assumptions made by those of us who are white, cis, non-disabled people moving through the world, and how we maybe think people are listening because what we have to say is interesting and helpful, vs. just because they’ve been taught, subconsciously, to STFU when we open our mouths. Or maybe just because they just want to have a nice gym class and not get into it with someone they have to see next time.

I’ve seen a few things recently that have suggested, before you leap into unsolicited advice, asking, “Are you open to feedback on this?” I’m SO into that idea. But historically, I’ve rarely found myself asking it.

Then recently, I read an article by (the brilliant) Karla Starr, called, “The Slow Suffocation of Unsolicited Advice.” In it, she says, “I’ve been paying closer attention to the dynamics of my social interactions—how they make me feel, who said what, etc.—and am blown away by how draining it is to get unsolicited advice. A lot of unsolicited advice comes from people who seeking validation for their way of doing things, but fail to consider how it makes the other person feel.”


She goes on,

“Can you imagine telling someone you genuinely respect ‘you know, you might want to consider changing your behavior, Malala’? How about ‘You think you’re so tough Mr. Ernest Hemingway, but here’s how you really write a sentence.

“Best case scenario? The message is ‘You’re clearly unaware of this piece of information that I have—otherwise, you’d be doing it a different way’, or ‘I think my way is better, you might find this helpful,’ or ‘maybe this way would be better.’

“These are all just another way of saying ‘I’m looking down on what you’re doing.’ Or, quite simply: ‘You’re doing it wrong.’

“Even when we’re coming at it with good intentions, we’re suggesting that the other person is deficient—in knowledge, in ability–and should be corrected.

“Advice-givers are assuming a certain level of status (you wouldn’t correct your boss), or validation for their ideas under the guise of helping someone else. But they’re seeking validation at the expense of someone else. When we get sudden advice, we’re subjected to the feeling of being criticized, being controlled, or second-guessing ourselves—that someone disapproves of what we do.”

That was hard to read.

I would like to think that I would and do often give advice to people I genuinely respect. For me, there are few greater thrills than being able to be genuinely helpful to someone I think is wonderful.

And I sometimes LOVE unsolicited advice — many of my closest friendships are based on it. But I also know I need to start being more careful about where I drop it.

Would I give it unsolicited to a Malala or a Hemmingway — someone I think of as so much higher than me on the “successful person” pecking order?

I don’t know for sure that I would.

Or at least if I did, I’m fairly certain I’d ask, “Are you open to feedback on this?”


There’s this one Bro At The Boxing Gym who I’ve become quite fond of. Yes, he always corrects my form and no, I don’t always think he’s right and yes, he does not leave me TF alone when I [have to] partner with him, like I wish he would. But there’s something else he does that I love him for. Something I used to hate him for.

Whenever he punches, he makes weird noises. “HOO!”s and “HEP!”s and “HOI!”s. At first, I found it SO ANNOYING. But then, when it was my turn to punch, I realised he’d given me permission to make weird noises. When I can grunt and expel air in a vocal way, I punch harder and with more of my full body force. It’s more enjoyable and it feels like it’s doing me and my mental health even more good.

From now on, I’m going to try and be grateful to the Bro’s At The Boxing Gym who make me question my urges to give unsolicited advice. When I’m feeling the pull to deliver some, I’m going to stop and ask myself, “is this for SURE information they likely need?” and “would you say this if you were talking to Oprah?”

If whatever I want to share bursting out of me, I’ll endeavour to remember to ask, “Are you open to feedback on this?” — and to make sure I listen to their answer.


Can you relate? Where do YOU stand on the unsolicited advice-giving spectrum? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks so much for reading! If you know anyone who knows the world of unsolicited advice well — or the world of bro’s at the boxing gym — you can share it with them by pressing one of those round buttons below. And if you’d like more stories in your inbox, along with tips and advice for how to Be Unforgettable AND my free guide to the magic bullet for captivating storytelling, come and join the Yes Yes Family. Just pop your details in below and I’ll ship it over:

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS came on the blog to learn more about storytelling skills and wondering what this has to do with teaching you those? Well, it’s a nice example of both how to use a story to get a point across, and of how the story doesn’t have to be bombastic. The narrative of this one was essentially “I was at the boxing gym and a man I don’t know patronized me”. The scaffolding is what brought it to life. Find a ton of how-to storytelling tips on this site, starting with the 5 part blog series in the sidebar to your right.

PPS feeling like you want to insert some stories like this into your next keynote or presentation and want some help? Or work at an organization where you’d like to bring me in? I’d love that! Book in a free, no obligation call here: 


  • Maigen

    Reply Reply December 5, 2022

    Y thank you, Marsha, for the demonstration of how well storytelling works. This was actually inspiring for me to want to check out boxing lessons! I will try to have patience with the unsolicited advice. I, too, struggle with “knowing better” and wanting others to know better too >.<

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Oh you should do them!! If you find the right gym, you never have to hit any person, just the bag!
      And yes, it’s a LIFELONG work in progress, isn’t it?!!!

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field