On Telling People What to Do

I go back and forth on this topic often, as I have not quite figured out the answer to this question of management and relationships. The thesis is that “humans do not like being told what to do.” Or do they? It is this question that I wrestle with, and one that is increasingly relevant in my life as I interact with more and more people, across a wide range of personal and professional settings.

My previous view, as I had written about, is that it is often best (as a general rule) to avoid telling people what to do. People should decide for themselves…people like to think on their own! They have ego! They have their own opinions they want to form!

But perhaps the wisdom of the crowd states otherwise. Perhaps the crowd lives under mimesis and really just copies and learns from everyone else anyways.

Perhaps we – the crowd – are all looking for the guidance of a shepherd. That shepherd often lives a bubble or step outside of our circle. We base an incredible, perhaps underrated amount of our decisions on trying to impress said “group leader.” This figure could be a role model, a friend, a friend’s friend, a celebrity, etc. This figure sets the norms and tones of “what is cool” and “important in my life.”

I return to the prompt: “should you tell people what to do?” I still think on a micro-level, the answer to this question is no. Ask people questions, not feed them answers. Even if you are right, it will be far less valuable than said person figuring it out on their own. And the good news, you are often wrong anyways!

But on a macro-level, I do think it is important to understand the power of group thinking, the power of ideologies and religions, and the understated power of group dynamics.

People want things. They want a mission. They want a purpose.

I think that force…a quiet one…is so incredibly powerful in determining so many aspects of the world.

We have satiated that desire with manufacturing jobs and endless newsfeeds of lackluster information…perhaps there is something more meaningful out there?

Also published on Medium.