“If you ask me you ought to…”
“Here's what you need to do…”
Which one of these is your favorite? These are just a few of the well-meaning phrases used by leaders when telling others what to do. The problem with telling is that it infantizes the person receiving the direction making them feel or seem small, inferior or immature. Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly right times for telling and teaching, but for the most part they are less often than we think.
Here’s what’s wrong with telling:
1. Telling puts me in the place of absolutely knowing the right thing to do.The truth is I might be wrong.The better way is to offer an idea, if you must, and let the other person decide what to do.
2. Telling puts all the pressure on me to come up with the solution which can be enabling. The truth is that it is not my problem but the model most of us grew up with tells us that the “big people” are supposed to figure things out. Each of us needs to carry our own load. God always offers a plan! It may be release from the situation or grace to get through it.
3. Telling positions leaders as a mediator of sorts hearing from God for others. The truth is God wants a direct relationship with everyone! When we hear FOR someone else we rob them of the practice they need to grow in this area. We are all children and fellow journeyers.
4. Telling is more expedient. The coaching model takes more time on the front end but the truth is that when honor and trust give enough room for people to try things and do what they believe God is showing them, then maturity happens and in the end it results in people being confident adn able to work through things on their own with God. However, well-meaning leaders usually feel it is quicker and their duty to tell others what to do.
5. Telling can be manipulative. The truth is that true leading may mean letting go more than controlling, kind of like God does with us. When we try to get people to do things the “right way” we may be negating God’s offer of free will.
6. Telling is often transactional and not necessarily transformational. The truth is that we don’t really want people just to do the right things, we want them to want to do the right things as well as to do them. When people do things for others, the changes often don’t last. Lasting change and true transformation comes from within.
Next time you are tempted to infantize someone and just tell them what to do – ask yourself these questions:
- Is it really my place to be the “adult” in their life?
- How could I offer an idea without making it the only right choice?
- How might I be stepping in between them and their direct relationship with God?
- Instead, how can I partner with them as a fellow journeyer offering support without giving ultimatum type advice?