Instead of Giving Advice, Try Doing This
The life you live is the lesson you teach
“You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.” — Oliver Goldsmith
If you want to encourage behavior or belief change in others, you will need to move away from advice-giving, especially unsolicited advice, and towards modeling. This can be challenging when all you want to do is help those you care about.
A few years ago I wanted my two oldest kids to pick up the love of reading. Reading benefitted me in many ways and I knew it would do the same for them. I espoused the advantages and even assigned extra reading tasks, but they seemed disinterested.
Eventually, I became upset and ordered them to start reading books. After a few weeks, I noticed their behavior changing while reading, as they clearly didn’t enjoy the assignments.
I realized I was doing my kids a disservice and stopped telling them to read. I also stopped trying to convince them of readings benefits.
“The person who is convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.” — Les Brown
I didn’t stress them on any reading activities aside from school reading. A few days after the realization I tried a different approach.
I started reading books while they were doing homework. This was great because it gave me extra reading time and I was nearby to help them when needed. After a few weeks, they started asking me questions about my books.
Maybe it was a welcome distraction from their homework but every time they saw me reading it piqued their curiosity.
Then one day after they finished schoolwork my kids grabbed their own books and read too. I couldn’t believe it. I was excited but I played it off. I couldn't believe how quickly my modeling experiment worked.
The situation made me quickly realize that the life you live is the lesson you teach.
“The life you live is the lesson you teach”
This is why modeling is essential in influencing behavior.
You can talk until you are blue in the face, but most will see it as chatter, some may even come to resent you for telling them what to do.
Why does modeling work?
Modeling works by observing designated people and learning how to act by watching their physical and emotional behavior. In this way, you can determine for yourself what you like and can pick up useful behaviors without being recognized or embarrassed by doing so.
I didn’t say anything about my kids suddenly wanting to read because I didn’t want to embarrass them. I took it in and pretended I didn’t notice. Thankfully they now love reading.
The modeling worked because it was in a positive setting, one that was relaxing and accomodating to their learning. Unlike the one, I set prior with agitation and direct orders.
My kids got to see the benefit for themselves in the stories and activities we created afterward, as reading is now a fun activity for them. Also, their imagination serves as an incentive as they discover new worlds and ideas through reading.
Always keep this in mind; If there are any negative reinforcements while you try to get someone to model your behavior it is going to discourage the observer from using the activity that was modeled. Almost as a rebellion against the person.
Modeling generally works in situations where there is some sort of a motivating factor — something as a living visual.
This is why being in a positive peer group is essential to your success. You will consciously and unconsciously adopt successful behavior because you also want to be successful.
Furthermore, research on observational learning suggests that while people will resist unsolicited advice and instruction, they will follow the behaviors of others — especially when there appear to be good and reinforcing outcomes from these behaviors. Hence you will need to be an example for others rather than telling them what to do.
“Well done is better than well said.” — Benjamin Franklin
If you model the behavior that you want and keep your advice-giving instincts in check you may be pleasantly surprised with the results. I find this very helpful usually while parenting.
Ironically this message is coming from a post doing just that, but consider this strategy and see how it works out for you.
Here are a few other ways of giving advice without telling someone what to do.
- Share Stories.
Stories are useful for offering a different perspective also they make you not feel like the only person in the world with your current challenge.
Some of the best life advice I received came in story form. It's no wonder why stories are timeless.
2. Offer options.
Most people dont like being told what to do. The best coaches in the world help you find your own answers instead of telling you what to do.
Another way to help without giving advice is to offer a set of options so the person can feel empowered with their own decisions.
3. Ask Questions about the Problem and about their feelings.
“We cant see a picture from inside the frame.”
Great questions help bring clarity. Sometimes the answers we need are only one question away. Also getting our feeling acknowledged goes a long way.
Hope this helps
Writer | Motivator | Reading Habits Coach | Content Creator. Around Me, Everyone Wins!