InsideOut Development

Stop Telling. Start Asking.

by Bob Parsons
1 Comment


In my last post, I shared two simple principles for working with anyone from any generation, from Baby Boomers like me to selfie-obsessed millennials. While these two rules, People hate to be told what to do and People love to be heard are important, they really just scratch the surface of the principles that need to be perfected in order to better relate to others. Whether you’re building connections at home or on the job, here’s your next principle for creating successful relationships.

PRINCIPLE #3 People don’t argue with their own data!

I heard this once from a respected colleague years ago and didn’t quite get its meaning until these last few years.

I have tried (unsuccessfully) to convince my 16-year-old daughter that it is important for me to interview anyone who might be interested in dating her.

I said, “Sweetie, before you can date anyone they will have to sit with me for an hour and answer a few questions.”

Needless to say she didn’t love that idea. In addition, when she would air a relationship challenge, I’d try to insert my 5 cents. Which would usually go as you’d imagine—in one ear and out another. But that was before I figured out Principle #3.

Rather than trying to impart my all-knowing wisdom, I started asking “think-it-through-for-yourself-since-you-really-DON’T-want-my-advice-anyway” questions. I asked her, “If you were a mom, how would you handle dating with your kids?” or “What do you think the guidelines should be?” The answers she shared were her own, but her opinions sounded just like her dad! I was finally beginning to see the light.

So, what is the difference in me telling her how I think she should proceed vs. encouraging her to come to her own conclusions? Full ownership and energy behind the solution. Suddenly, this is her idea and not someone else’s. This is a way to “operationalize” empowerment and demonstrates the difference between trying to convince her to comply versus helping her develop her own solutions. The former leads to frustration, more work, and more aggravation, while the latter is actually more fun, more productive, and gets her to actually take action on her commitment while, at the same time, creating less work and effort for the parent/leader/coach (that would be me!)

People inherently want to create and implement their OWN solutions. Our objective as a parent, a boss, or even a colleague, is to adopt a “coach approach,” where we are drawing others out, helping them think through their own problems, and putting the accountability and responsibility where it should be…back on them! Telling people what to do creates dependence, while asking people good forward-moving questions creates independence. Oh, wait, that’s my next principle…

Category: Coaching

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Bob Parsons is a highly trained Executive Coach and Talent Development Professional with over 30 years of experience helping clients take strategic action on their business initiatives. Bob has also taught at the University of Minnesota and St. Thomas University’s school of engineering. A former DJ and current Santa-for-hire, Bob lives in Apple Valley, Minnesota with his awesome wife of 31 years and his three great kids. His favorite super hero is The Flash and Mr. Incredible.

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