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What is Right?

Many years ago, I met someone who created beautiful designs which she had made up into very high quality umbrellas. They were extremely practical and hardwearing, but also had an exclusivity as they were made in limited editions. She sold them at events and venues where people were looking for items which were a bit different. At a networking event, she was talking about her product and a chap jumped in with what to him was the perfect and obvious way to create more income. Mass produce the umbrellas at a lower quality, bring the price right down and sell them any place she could.  


His advice, if she was only interested in selling umbrellas, was very sensible. However, she was producing a luxury item, something which marked the buyer out as having some taste and discernment, not just someone trying to keep dry. The chap couldn’t understand that and it got quite heated between the two of them. She was very clear on what she wanted and felt she was not being respected for her grasp of her products and market. He was getting annoyed at what he perceived as her stupidity and rudeness at dismissing his expertise.


I am a great believer in sharing ideas, getting feedback and talking things through (well, as a coach, I would be, wouldn’t I?!). I know the value, from both sides, of saying things out loud and getting a fresh perspective, of being open to other opinions.


I am also a great believer in not taking advice if it runs counter to your own expertise, gut instinct or  what you are trying to achieve, whether it is creating luxury umbrellas, changing a career or adding tomatoes to your diet. (I understand the benefits of eating tomatoes, but I'm sorry, I loathe them.)  


Whether you are giving or receiving advice, there needs to be respect and the process approached with open minds on both sides. There could be gold in an idea you are given, or at least a spark to set you thinking in a different direction. Or it could be a suggestion that you know is completely wrong for how you work, your values, what you want to achieve. In that case, it is perfectly acceptable to thank the person for their generous input and still make a contrary decision. If you are the one giving the advice, give it graciously and don’t take it personally if it is not followed to the letter. Even ideas which are not taken up can help provide clarity, an extremely valuable contribution in itself.


When I am coaching I occasionally make suggestions, but I always preface it by saying it is just a suggestion, it doesn’t mean I am right. Sometimes, I even throw in a deliberately provocative suggestion with the intention of shaking things up. What I delight in is not people slavishly following my ideas (like that is ever going to happen!), but to see them trying the idea on and coming to their own conclusions - which are often far more exciting than anything I could imagine!


Don't be attached to either being 'right' or believing that the other person is automatically right. Embrace others’ suggestions with thanks, take what works, discard what doesn’t and enjoy of the process of discovery.

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