• Andy Robinson

Are You 'Shoulding' On Others?



How often do you tell or suggest to someone what they SHOULD do? How well does that tend to work for you when you do it?

When I hear someone tell me what they think I should do, it almost always comes across as a demand and immediately puts me on the defensive. While the person may be well-intentioned, suggesting to me what I should do is very rarely well received and almost never incites me to act on that person’s advice. Even when “the should” could be sound advice, it generally falls on deaf ears. Their desire to help comes across as them thinking they KNOW what is best for me. It’s relevant even when you directly ask for their advice. In coaching parlance, we call this “shoulding on others.”

Giving advice is an art, and the best advice is when you can affirm a solution or action that the other person comes up with themselves.

So, instead of shoulding on others, try the following when you’re trying to help another person figure out a better way of doing something:

  • Ask questions designed to elicit ideas for action

  • Ask:

  • “What do YOU think you should do?”

  • “What would you do differently next time?”

  • “What have you tried before that worked for you?”

  • “What is the outcome you are seeking and what is the best way to achieve that outcome?”

  • “What feels right?”

  • Then, LISTEN and dig deep with follow-up questions if necessary

  • Your goal is for the proverbial “light bulb” to come on and for the other person to formulate what THEY think would be best for them

  • Once they have expressed an idea that seems to resonate deeply with them, ask for a firm commitment to action:

  • What exactly will you do?

  • How and when will you do it?

  • What do you expect to achieve by doing it?

  • What benefit will that provide you?

Stay alert going forward for the advice you’re giving others and avoid “shoulding” and shift towards helping THEM figure out the answer for themselves. The likelihood of them taking action will dramatically increase due to their emotional investment in the answer and solution.

Andy Robinson, Executive Coach


AndyRobinson.Coach | 239-285-5575 | Andy@AndyRobinson.Coach


"Helping CEO's and executives maximize their influence and impact."



#Leadership #Communication #Habits

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