This article originally appeared in Small Biz Daily.
“You shouldn’t eat that.”
“Your kids should be going to bed earlier.”
“If I were you, I would speak up more in meetings.”
What emotions do those statements spark in you? Defensiveness? Insecurity? Doubt?
Even when advice is well-intentioned, if the person receiving the advice doesn’t feel like it’s relevant or helpful it can create tension. We’ve all received advice at some point that actually feels like criticism.
On the flip side – have you ever had someone, instead of criticizing outright, tell you a story about a personal, relevant experience and what was learned? If so, how did you feel? Reassured? Relaxed? Understood?
When we share our experiences with someone, versus telling them our opinions, there is less debate on what’s right or wrong, less blame administered, less hurt caused.
What would the world look like if we all shared our experiences instead of our opinions and let others form their own opinions without consequence?
This doesn’t mean that you can never share advice or tell someone what they “should” do. Simply, proceed with caution. Many times people who are giving advice simply want to share something that they truly think is helpful and with good intention.
Before giving advice, ask if the person would like to receive it by simply saying, “Would you like some advice on this?” Even better: Share an experience with them so that they can come to their own conclusion with newly acquired information.
This simple change is a powerful tool for leaders to motivate and support instead of direct and frustrate. Change your mindset to think about being a direct support for your team versus the direct report for your team. How can you coach your team as opposed to directing your team? A coach asks questions, holds people accountable and shares experiences that can serve as learning opportunities. When you coach and support, instead of direct, you’re giving employees the permission to unlock their intelligence to find solutions and make decisions. Would you have hired them if you didn’t think they were capable of doing so?
Training yourself to share experiences takes time, awareness and commitment. Organizations that want to scale and develop leaders have to learn how to effectively engage in feedback and experience-sharing. Give people the power to make their own decisions, and watch engagement and creativity increase. As a leader, our opinions can outweigh the group and put the breaks on critical thinking and creative problem solving. Give your employees their brains back and you’ll unlock a new level of innovation and engagement you may have never known existed.