Ask First, Tell Second
Do you have a tendency to offer advice or to tell people what you think they should do? This is an easy trap and habit to fall into as a manager or a parent—or life in general.
By freely sharing our advice, we are satisfying our ego that wants to feel important and confident that its perspective and way of doing things is best. Two roles in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) are especially prone to giving advice.
When in the Rescuer role, you may offer advice because you want to be accommodating. In the name of “being helpful,” it is in the Rescuer role that you might overstep your bounds and give suggestions, whether others ask for it or not. In an attempt to fix, do for, or take care of another—however well-intentioned it may be—a Rescuer is nearly always in a “tell” mode.
It is in the Persecutor role that you may most want to control a situation, take charge, and give advice. There may be many reasons for this, such as wanting to appear smart or an expert, to be right or simply to get things done without taking the time to receive input from others.
Both of these roles have drawbacks and are prone to “telling first—and asking second.” When we “tell first,” it limits the time and safe space for others to develop their thoughts and to process or reflect. Telling first can inadvertently lead to the assumption of others that they do not need to think for themselves because you will always have the answer. Even worse, telling rather than asking preempts innovative and creative ideas from being expressed.
Our suggestion is to adopt a mantra of “Ask First, Tell Second.” David developed this method years ago in his executive coaching, which is especially useful for leaders who think that their advice is “the answer” for those who come to draw on their expertise.
While the following explanation is in an organizational setting, it also is relevant in other relationships. Here is a simple way to illustrate both how to ask first and its benefits:
A co-worker comes to you with an issue or opportunity they are facing and asks for your thoughts. In your mind, you immediately can think of four options to address the issues. Let’s simply label the options “A, B, C, & D.” Instead of sharing your ideas, you remember to “ask first and tell second” so you ask them what they have considered.
The other person may respond with something like: “Well, I think I should do A, B, D, and also E.” You now have the opportunity to complement and reinforce their thinking by responding, “I think A, B, and D are right on target. I hadn’t thought about E. I think that’s a great idea! The only thing I’d add is considering also doing C.”
As a result of this kind of conversation, the other person is likely to leave more highly motivated because they are now implementing their own ideas, which you have reinforced and added to. They have also had their own thought process validated and included a new and innovative idea (“E”) that you had not thought of—and probably would not have come up if you “told first!”
By asking first and then, if necessary, offering suggestions or ideas, you are relating to them as a Creator and supporting them as a Coach, two vital TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® roles that are at the heart of co-creating.
As a Co-Creator, adopt the mantra, “ask first, tell second.”