Please Don’t Tell Me What To Do

In Creating Happiness by Barbara Jacoby

In a recent discussion with a friend, we were brainstorming ideas about how to approach a certain project that I was going to undertake.  But, before I knew it, she was telling me exactly the approach that I should take, how I should go about laying it out, how I should measure the accomplishment of my goals and the manner in which I should structure a timeline for completion.  As I sat there listening to her, I suddenly realized that I did not appreciate what she was doing and the fact that as she had no real idea about the underlying results that I wanted to achieve, how could she dictate what should be done.

I did hear her out and walked away from her vowing never to bring her into such a discussion again.  That made me a little sad because I knew that by not consulting with her in the future, I may miss out on a brilliant idea that I may not otherwise have considered.  I guess I was just trying to determine where the line needs to be drawn in such situations.

As I pondered this for awhile, I realized that I had taken her behavior very personally.  And the longer I thought about it, the angrier I got.  If this were the first project that I had ever undertaken for myself, then I might have appreciated the guidance through the various logistical steps.  But such was not the case and I had already established a great reputation for myself based upon my past efforts.  So I went back to my original assessment of not asking her for any input in the future and I will tell you why.

No one knows me better than I know myself.  I know my personal experiences and I know what I have learned in the professional world as I have passed through many different experiences over the years.  And one thing that I have learned is that you never tell another person what to do.  Another person may not have had your same experiences so by telling them to do something in a particular way, they may have no frame of reference in which to do that.  Another reason is that when you sit down to share ideas, the goal is to do just that – come up with lots of different possibilities. And most importantly, when the friend is not someone who shares in doing the same types of projects that you are going to undertake, how can they outline what and how you should do it.

So, I am asking all of my family, friends, co-workers and other business colleagues to please not tell me what to do.  Please afford me the respect of sharing ideas and if you think I should be doing something differently than I am, there are lots of ways to help me out that are not disrespectful to me.  For me, the easiest is to say something like, “If it were me, I would …”.  You have not walked a mile in my shoes so you can’t possibly know what will work for me personally.  And I don’t know your particular experiences and how they may have affected you so I can’t tell you what will be the best course for you. 

And if I find myself headed down the path of telling someone else how they should feel or what they should do, I just remember an exchange that my sister and I recently had wherein we recalled something that our parents had said to us many years ago.  Our individual recollections were so totally different because of who we were, how we interacted with our parents and what we believed about ourselves as individuals at that time.  So trust your own instincts and make your decisions based upon what works best for you and you will never go wrong.  The smartest person you know does not know you better than you know yourself so they have no business telling you what to do either.

I would love your comments.