Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself.                                      ~ George MacDonald

Have you ever given advice only to be disappointed or frustrated or maybe even a little angry when your advice wasn’t followed? Like a cross between Dear Abbey and Dr Phil, we often seem to see, with amazing clarity, the path another should walk.

There are times when giving advice is imperative. It’s a part of parenting, a part of teaching, a part of many professions. But if we truly want to encourage growth and courage in a child, a student, a client, a parishioner –  in a friend –  we need to learn when to stop sharing our life lessons and listen to their life stories.

If a person wants and values our advice, they’ll seek it. I was a young counselor when I learned that basic lesson in advice giving. Ask more, tell less. I still forget that sometimes.

What a gift of grace it is to care enough about someone to wake things up that are in them; to make them think things for themselves. It may not be the solution that we think we can so clearly see would solve all their troubles. But it may be their solution for their path.

So this is my unsolicited advice: If they Don’t Ask, you Don’t Tell. And yes, I know. You didn’t ask.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

35 thoughts on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

  1. Debbie,
    Wow, did you touch a nerve with this one. I need to learn this lesson probably more than any other right now. I’m guilty of knowing exactly what other people should do to help themselves. I often have to bite my tongue to remember to listen. I love your quote, ” But if we truly want to encourage growth and courage in a child, a student, a client, a parishioner – in a friend – we need to learn when to stop sharing our life lessons and listen to their life stories.” — Great post. Thanks, I needed to hear this.

    1. Thank you Steven! I spent many, many years on the road, ‘sharing my life lessons’. Now it’s my turn to listen to the stories of others.
      Thank you for your vulnerability and for your kind words.
      ~ Debbie
      (I’m in search of your follow-up comments. I’m not sure how we go about such an exchange but it sounds like a fine idea.)

  2. Thanks for the reminder to “ask more, tell less”. Cousin to “listen more, talk less”. I try to remember that good questions help others get to say what they need to say, and that listening gives them a chance to hear themselves sy it. Some days I’m better at it than others.

    I’m trying to catch up on some of my favorite “thinkers” today, and your posts push me to take another look at myself. Thanks!

    1. Paulann – Something tells me that you’re a very fine listen. Few are, as you well know. I have no doubt that you listen just as carefully off the clock as on. Thank you for coming back to visit!
      ~ Debbie

  3. Well, sisters–I’m late (in more ways than one, I ‘spect) but glad to be here/hear. What a humbling message, Debbie. I have no good excuse for my loquaciousness–I tell people I’m making up for my “silent” years, but maybe I’m hoping if I keep talking, something wise witty or wonderful’s bound to come out sooner or later. Anyway, thanks much for the good word! God bless you, Big–

    1. Dear Sis Caddo – You’re anything but glib and babbling. I LOVE your words and I’m Asking to you Tell me anytime. 🙂
      Grace and blessings to you, my friend~
      ~ Debbie

  4. I’m here late, but hearing this blessed me so much. I want so much to have wise good things to tell my friends and family. But continually draw a blank. Thank you for being His voice to me, to tell me to let them discover what it is they need and just be a sounding board for them.
    God bless you, gracious Debbie, and all the ones He sends to you for listening care.
    love from the other deb

    1. Dear Deb – You’re always exactly on time! 😀
      I’m convinced the best talking we do is on our knees, not on our platforms. You, gracious friend, draw people to you by your gentle, tender heart.
      love to you,
      ~ Debbie

  5. I say Go Tell it On the Mountain…

    I appreciate your wisdom. I love your mentorship.

    Boss me around ok? I am with Mel, it might not stick right away, BUT it does get in there.

    AND yes. listening. Most important. With Heart. I am learning this the hard way: with a teenage boy in the house!

    Thank you

    Peace, Jen

    1. Dearest Jen – I hope we’re building a lifelong relationship where we learn from each other. I’ve learned so much from you.
      Listening from the heart – yes. Otherwise it isn’t really listening. It’s much more like a courtroom, where you hear the other’s point so you can make yours.
      Teen talk takes a special ear and one that you clearly have!
      Love and peace, my friend,
      ~ Debbie

  6. Hey, you know what would make this post better? Just kidding, but the answer would be nada. Nailed me again, Debbie. You sure take the fun out of being a know-it-all. God bless.

    1. dear mt – I just love you, my brother!
      I actually wasn’t aiming at you, but I’m not always the best shot. You’re going to have to learn to duck while you read. 😀
      Blessing and grace to you, my friend,
      ~ Debbie

  7. Blushing here…I think I was the inspiration for the post (not in a good way). I do have a lot of opinions. I have opinions about things before I know anything about the topic!! Sigh. Will I ever truly apply this? God only knows.

    That made me smile because probably He’s the one that will do it for me, when I’m willing to let Him. duh.

    1. Dear Heidi – My friend, you know me better than that! If I write about any failure, it’s always mine. You inspire me in all the good ways!:D
      And, by the way, I wouldn’t keep writing either blog if it weren’t for you. Thank you.
      ~ Debbie
      And yes, I’m pretty sure it’s not just a matter of determination (you’ve got enough of that for 12 people) 😀 Real change is always transformation, right?

  8. I hear your lessons. You know a lot … and i keep a lot of your lessons in my heart and mind. I even read some of the authors you tell me about.

    But as you well know,earth angel, i will take my bloody time about changing stuff (RIGHT?) … so by the time your lessons have sunk in, i forgot who told me the lesson in the first place.

    I love your writing, and i will continue to absorb your goodness and smarts. I’m paying attention … and maybe, just maybe i’ll take some advice. HEE HEE! xoxo melis

    1. dear melis – LOL! I’ll try to ONLY give you advice if asked – and then, judicially. 😀
      I pray before I write that if there’s any truth in my words, they’ll be of some use to someone, sometime (I’m in not hurry) and if there’s anything I say that’s off base, it’ll be immediately forgotten. Maybe you’re just forgetting the useless stuff. 😉
      Thank you, my kind friend, for reading my heart here and my humor at Fork. Have a wonderful weekend and Merry 2nd Christmas!
      ~ Debbie

  9. Words to live by, Debbie
    Thank you for the reminder
    I fall prey to telling my story – too many times before
    Listening is an art and I am trying to take more classes
    God Bless

    1. Susie – Beautifully said. Listening is an art class we would all benefit from taking and retaking! I don’t think we ever really get to graduate. Thank you for, once again, sharing your open heart.
      Blessings and grace to you, dear Susie,

    1. Vicky, – You are unwaveringly kind. Thank you for reading both blogs. I’m amazed that I don’t put you to sleep. Must be those coyotes howling that keeps you going! 😀
      ~ Debbie

    1. Dear Ruth – You couldn’t be more welcome and thank you so much for the re-post! I almost didn’t post it this morning. You know how it is when the words just don’t quite work? This was one of those times. But if it was of some encouragement, then that’s so surprisingly great! Thank you, my friend!
      ~ Debbie

    1. Jill – Bless your kind heart. Few people even acknowledge their weaknesses, let alone spend a lifetime seeking to change. For what it’s worth, you’ve been a wonderful listener with me this past year! Thank you!
      ~ Debbie

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