Why People Don’t Take Your Advice

This topic comes up frequently in my coaching sessions – clients are frustrated when their peers and direct reports don’t take their advice.  Conversations go like this:

I tell her all the time that she has to say “no” more often.  I’ll support her decisions – but she still overcommits and then disappoints.

 He’s got to realize that taking the time to talk things through with people is worth the investment.  Argh!  He continues to send out abrasive e-mails!

Why is it so hard for people to listen to reason?  The answer is simple.  What looks reasonable and proven to you does not look reasonable or even possible to them.  No matter how well we explain what makes sense to us, it has to make sense to others in order for them to act on it.  The key to influencing others is to get curious about what makes sense to them.

We all do what makes sense to us in the moment.  No one comes to work and decides to overcommit and then disappoint people!  No one thinks it’s a great idea to send out a flaming e-mail!  To understand why people do what they do and don’t take your advice, you must see the situation from their perspective.  Keep in mind:

We create our experience of people and situations through our thinking – thinking that is filtered through our personal values and beliefs.

Our feelings or emotional state are a direct result of our thinking in the moment – not the situation.

The human mind is designed to give us insights and ideas – all we have to do is be open to seeing something new.

For example, I have a client who prides himself on his work ethic – he works very hard and is passionate about what he does.  In his mind, saying no means he doesn’t care about the business.  So he’s stuck in a habit of overcommitting and then disappointing the very people he wants to please/help.  Here’s how a better understanding could help him:

  • He could realize that his work ethic, while admirable, sometimes overpowers his common sense.  He could see he’s making up the idea that he cannot say no – and that this belief actually works against him.
  • He could begin to recognize that feelings such as urgency and concern are indicators that he is losing his perspective and common sense.
  • He could see something new and different — that makes sense to him — about his habit of over-committing.  Only a personal realization can change behavior in a sustainable way.  

insightSo what’s the take-away here?  The key to helping your people change unproductive behavior is to get curious about what makes sense to them.  When we realize that the root cause of our unproductive behavior is how we think about a situation and that we have an endless supply of new thinking at our disposal, we set ourselves up for insights.  It’s only through insights that we can change behavior in a sustainable way.