Why Telling People What to Do Doesn’t Work

 

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Actually, there’s a simple way to prove that telling people what to do doesn’t work. Here it is: Do you like being told what to do? Are you more likely to make a change if you’re told to do something or if you choose to implement that change on your own? In reality, no one likes being told what to do. And while we might comply with a demand that’s made of us, it will rarely result in any lasting change.

There’s some pretty good science to explain why this is true. According to an article by David Rock in the Neuro Leadership Journal the approach (reward) – avoid (threat) response is a reflexive activity that occurs unconsciously and automatically.  We quickly perceive situations and stimuli as containing either a threat or a reward. Not surprisingly, the way we perceive those situations determines whether we engage or we avoid. According to Rock, “Engagement is a state of being willing to do difficult things, take risks, to think deeply about issues and develop new solutions.” (emphasis added). That’s the goal of coaching!

In the coaching conversation the person being coached is guided toward a reward-engagement response by asking non-threatening questions which develop awareness and stimulate growth and action. The coach will avoid judgmental questions, leading questions, or what I call “test questions” where there is only one correct answer. Questions like these will result in an involuntary threat-avoidance response.  Someone who asks questions like these neither understands basic human behavior nor practices good coaching techniques. Just ask someone who has received good coaching and they’ll tell you: there’s one reason why coaching works – the questions! Not your basic run-of-the-mill yes/no questions or those there’s-only-one-right-answer questions or I’m-the-boss-and-I-want-an-answer-right-now type questions. A good coach asks questions that help you discover more about yourself and more about the journey you are on – “to think deeply about issues and develop new solutions!”

That’s why I enjoy being a coach! I get to ask the type of questions that help people become more engaged in the issues that matter most to them and to discover new pathways of success, effectiveness, and enjoyment in the pursuit of those life issues. If that sounds helpful to you, contact me and let’s start the conversation.

I offer a limited number of complimentary introductory coaching sessions each month. Contact me here about scheduling a session with you.

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