In conversation, I find that one of the biggest challenges is to keep from telling a discussion partner to do something. As a coach, I have to consciously resist this all of the time!
So, what’s wrong with just telling someone the answer, or your opinion, or what you think they ‘should’ do? Based on numerous incidents where I got this wrong, I have come to realize that unless an awareness comes from within, it is difficult to stay committed to the ‘solution’.
Think of all of the advice we get from every corner.
“Want to lose weight? Here’s what you need to do.”
“If you are unhappy in that relationship, just dump him.”
“Hate your job? QUIT!”
When we are dispensing such advice, we assume that the person on the receiving end hasn’t already thought of what we are offering AND we behave as if we know the details of their specific circumstances as well or better than they do. This often moves people into a protective mode, which cements current behaviors instead of shifting them. Telling has such a bad track record when it comes to facilitating change because it stops engagement instead of promoting it.
When you find yourself in a situation where you have “just the right answer” to someone’s dilemma or problem, try to act like a mirror or window instead. A mirror helps an individual see ‘what is’ more clearly, allowing them to clarify for themself what needs to change. (Kind of like I feel before I put on my make up in the morning). Opening a window for someone provides them the opportunity to ‘see what is possible’. Both approaches ultimately require that person to be moved to act. But when it is an action they realized on their own, the commitment is much stronger.