I had just finished dinner at a little restaurant near the beach in Santa Monica. I was walking out to my rental car. As I was walking to my car, I was approached by a panhandler, a street beggar, a homeless person. I don’t know what the politically correct phrase for these folks are, but this guy came up to me and said, “Hey buddy, can you spare a hundred bucks?”
Now in selling, I have learned that one of the greatest challenges that we face is breaking preoccupation because we live in an over-communicated world. And this guy was good. He got my attention and I engaged him. I said, “You know, buddy, if you had asked for a buck, I would have given it to you. Wouldn’t have even thought about it. If you’d asked for ten bucks, I might have given it to you because you had the hutzpah to ask. But a hundred bucks, come on. Are you kidding me?”
The guy said, “Look, buddy. Either give me the money or don’t. Just don’t tell me how to run my business.”
I guess in retrospect I was doing something I advise against: I was giving unsolicited advice.
Even people who ask for advice don’t always want it. Often they are just asking until they find someone who confirms what they want to believe or do.
People who don’t ask for advice definitely don’t want nor think they need it.
We, of course, think we’re trying to be helpful. Once in a great while we get lucky and find someone receptive to our ideas even though they didn’t solicit them. But more often than not, we annoy.
Over 30+ years of presenting, I’ve had people approach me after my presentation–some well meaning and a few not–and offer their “feedback” about how I could have improved what I did. I am a student of improvement and will take good ideas wherever I find them, but most of what those people shared was neither helpful nor instructive. It was usually based on some personal pet peeve or amateur observation. I’ve never given feedback to my doctor or surgeon about how he or she did their job for the simple reason that I’m not a doctor or surgeon and therefore am unqualified.
If you have children, you know that you’ve got to create a desire for your kids to listen to what you say. Sure, you can impose your advice or suggestions on them, but when you did, how did that work out?
If you feel strongly about sharing suggestions or advice, let the other person know. But do it in a way that is easy for them to say, “No.” Pressuring anyone into listening won’t get you far.
And if you think you’ve got a great idea for how someone can improve, first ask yourself if you are practicing said advice. Practice before you teach. We often spot weaknesses in the performance of others easily because we have the same weaknesses.
Lucky for me I am usually hired to advise leaders and others on how to run their businesses better. Their willingness to pay for that counsel confirms their receptivity. But for those who neither ask nor pay? I don’t blame them for not wanting me–or anyone else–to tell them how to run their business.
Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit www.marksanborn.com. He also teaches professional speakers and leaders how to increase their messaging and public speaking effectiveness. Learn more here.