Are You “Should-ing” All Over Everyone?

3 Easy Ways for People to Take On Your Advice

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“What you should do is…” “It’s obvious, you should do this, then you should do that and then you should tell them what you’ve done”. Should do. What you should do, want to do and actually do are often very different things. Even if the advice we’ve been given is spot on, the fact that we’ve been told we ‘should’ do it is often the very reason we don’t and if that’s the reaction we have, it’s the reaction that others will have when we ‘should’ all over them.

There’s something innately irritating to be told what we should be doing. It implies (this is the subtle, savvy part to understand) that we’re not doing something and that the other person is wiser than we are. It’s implicit that we’ve missed a trick and they haven’t. That they know better exactly what will work for us. Well, in reality, we know better than anyone what works for us and as we all know, making a decision ourselves and then sticking to it is always more powerful than carrying out other people’s advice. We own the outcome and are responsible for the result. (Or, in this case, response-able).

One of the big pieces of being an influential communicator as you work is to put across your ideas, suggestions, or advice (still need to do this!) and, at the same time, allow the other person to decide for themselves how, and if, it will work for them. It then becomes their decision, their action. This principle applies just as effectively at home with our families and friends – and those trickiest of customers, your children.

So, how do you get across your idea, suggestion, advice without saying “what you should do is” or “I think you should…”?

Here are 3 quick easy ways which work, for you to try out:

  • Start with “I’ve got an idea for you...” – this way you’re putting out that it’s only an idea and it’s for you to contemplate and understand if and how it will work. By saying “I’ve got” you’re telling the other person “OK, I’m ready with something that I think you’ll want but it’s up to you what you do with it”.
  • Say “I’m going to make a suggestion here” – again, you’re putting across that you have something to offer and you want their buy-in before you just throw it at them. 9 times out of 10, if you’ve read the situation and your relationship correctly, the other person will be more open.
  • Think aloud – “hmmm, that’s tricky, now I wonder if…”– you can hear (and feel) that you’re empathising that they have an issue or something tricky going on i.e, they’re not an idiot – and saying “I wonder if” is a pensive, non-confrontational way of offering your thoughts or suggestions.

As with these ideas, avoiding the ‘should’ word once you start with these phrases is crucial; offering your thoughts in a less fixed way leaves the other person open to taking on what you think but without your judgement (intentional or otherwise) behind it. Try these phrases the next time you feel yourself about to say “well, you should” or “oh, it’s obvious, what you should do is…” You’ll notice the difference in how easily the other person(s) take on what you think and if they ignore you then at least they know you contributed your thoughts.

As I always say at dinner time to my husband, “There are two choices for dinner. Take it. Or leave it.” I bet, like he does, they’ll take it more often than not.

Let’s make it your time to shine, in your own way. When would now be a better time to go for Promotion, Recognition and Rewards?

For more information and immediately helpful tips on how to connect and be valued and heard in business:

Here’s a helpful, immediate Gift for you. Q is for Questions (embed link please - A downloadable PDF of a chapter from my # 1 best-selling book The A to Z of Being Understood.

Use the chapter to lead conversations, to be more compelling when you first meet someone and -

Kay White

Savvy & Influential Communication for Ambitious Women in Business,