We've all been in situations where we want to give someone advice. We know they really need to hear what we have to say, but how do we let them know in the most effective way? Here are psychotherapist Hina Khan’s top tips on the art of persuasion and how we can successfully give advice without upsetting our loved ones.
Avoid 'You' Statements
“You statements” or “you messages” are when you use the word you to get your message across. For the person receiving the message they often feel as if they're being judged, attacked or blamed for something and they become defensive. The communication shuts right down.
How can we reword our advice but still direct it to that person?
Refrain from using you statements; instead reframe your comment by incorporating “I” statements. When you use “I" messages the speaker is taking responsibility for their own feelings and the other person doesn't feel attacked. If someone said to you “You never listen to me” you would become defensive. Instead if they said “I am feeling unheard, and I am not sure what is going on but I really want to figure it out,” that will open up a conversation. "I" statements also convey a more respectful tone, so they are much more effective.
People need to get to things in their own time. When it comes to their health and well-being they can have the answers and all the information right in front of them but if they're not ready for it, it really doesn't matter. Timing is everything.
What if we have already given this advice but they didn't take it?
If they weren't receptive to your advice or weren’t ready to hear it, it was not the right time. Pull back and instead of trying to push your whole agenda onto them, just plant some seeds. Give them a little bit at a time and then give them space to process the information. Finally, let them come to you and ask you more questions when they’re ready.
Practice What You Preach
We all know the saying "actions speaks louder than words" and it's true. Words don't teach but your example does. It can influence and inspire others.
So we should teach by example?
That's right! If you’re trying to promote a healthier lifestyle to a loved one it's imperative you're also embracing a healthy lifestyle. That doesn't mean you must be a health expert.You just need to be an example of someone that has made healthy changes and feel much more positive as a result. They will be curious about what you have done, and how you did it. That is the right time to share your thoughts.
Be curious about what is going on for them. This will give you some more insight about their situation. They will also feel like you're generally interested in their well-being and in them. By asking questions they'll be more receptive to any advice you have to offer.
How do we avoid asking sensitive questions?
Test the waters by starting very general and neutral. Make sure you pay attention to their body language as well. Are they starting to squirm? Fidget? Do they seem uncomfortable? If so, back off and go back to more general questions.
Don't Be Attached to the Outcome
When you're invested in an outcome you're now in the area of trying to control a situation or the person.
If we really care about someone how can we not be attached to the outcome?
First of all accept that you have no control of the outcome and ultimately, we are all responsible for our health and well-being. Only offer advice or suggestions when you don't feel any attachment to their response. Meaning you offer advice and if they take it great, and if they don't, that is okay too. Also, realize when we are attached to an outcome it is more about us then them. Meaning we want to see a certain result because it will make us happier or feel better about a situation. Not being attached to a particular result requires faith. Faith that your loved one will find their way without you micromanaging the situation.
Let Them Come Up with the Solution
This is such an important part of therapy, coaching and working with others. You must allow others to come up with solutions, and give them the time to do so.
Why does this make a difference?
The solution will stick and have more impact when it comes from within the person rather than you telling them what to do and how to do it. It will also feel much more organic and natural as opposed to something that is being forced upon them. In addition to this, when it comes from within them, the timing will always be perfect!
Keep an Open-Ended Invitation
Don't make this a one-time event. Let them know you're here for them, now and in the future. Let them know this is a conversation you're open to having whenever they would like to. By saying this, you’re letting them know your support is ongoing. Just make sure you don't turn every interaction you have with them into a conversation about the topic that you want to help them with.
Do Not Judge
If your friend or loved one is feeling judged they will resent you and it will set them up for failure.
How can we let them know we’re not judging them?
Share with them some of your own experiences of trying different things, some which worked and some which didn't. That way if whatever you are suggesting doesn't work for them they will see it as part of the process as opposed to being a failure. They will also likely still come to you for more advice.