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How to Give Instructions

How to Give Instructions

There’s a common story in America about a hapless tourist asking a Maine farmer for directions. After thinking a moment, the farmer rattles off a lengthy lists of directions along the lines of “…take the old side road up a ways past the Anderson’s farm and turn left when you see Smithy’s cow. After a while you’ll come to a broke-down truck, turn right and cut across the Kingses’ back lot to…”. Inevitably, though, the farmer winds up concluding “but you can’t get there from here!”

Much of our daily communications consists of giving instructions, whether helping friends find our new house or office or writing a manual for a new product or helping a jury decide the guilt or innocence of the accused. The popularity of blog posts (like this one) with titles that tell you “how to” do something, and even whole sites like Instructables.com and WikiHow.com, suggests the importance of good, clear instructions.

And yet, so many of the instructions we get are so bad. Electronics come with poorly translated manuals that are often more humorous than useful; software comes with thick manuals that sit, unopened, beside our computers for years; we finish assembling our flat-pack furniture with a handful of extra parts and doors that don’t close right; and so on.

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Giving good instructions, whether written or spoken, requires a certain kind of mindset, one that few of us can hold onto for very long. It is hard to put ourselves in the place of a person who doesn’t know how to do something — especially when we can do it so easily and with little, if any, thought. The Yankee farmer in the old story above gives great instructions — for himself. For the tourist, though, the instructions are meaningless — they depend too strongly on local knowledge that the outsider would have no way of knowing. He truly “can’t get there from here”, not without the local’s specialized understanding.

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In his book Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Learning to Give, Take, and Use Instructions, Richard Saul Wurman outlines a simple set of conditions that a good set of instructions must meet (no matter how complex the desired outcome is). In order to be effective, a good set of instructions must provide information about six things:

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  • Mission: What do the instructions show me how to do?
  • Destination: What will I see, hear, experience when I’ve followed the instructions?
  • Procedure: What are the exact steps I need to follow to reach the destination and accomplish the mission? What tools and equipments will I need? What special information do I need to finish?
  • Time: How lon
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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

If I was a super hero I’d want my super power to be the ability to motivate everyone around me. Think of how many problems you could solve just by being able to motivate people towards their goals. You wouldn’t be frustrated by lazy co-workers. You wouldn’t be mad at your partner for wasting the weekend in front of the TV. Also, the more people around you are motivated toward their dreams, the more you can capitalize off their successes.

Being able to motivate people is key to your success at work, at home, and in the future because no one can achieve anything alone. We all need the help of others.

So, how to motivate people? Here are 7 ways to motivate others even you can do.

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1. Listen

Most people start out trying to motivate someone by giving them a lengthy speech, but this rarely works because motivation has to start inside others. The best way to motivate others is to start by listening to what they want to do. Find out what the person’s goals and dreams are. If it’s something you want to encourage, then continue through these steps.

2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are the best way to figure out what someone’s dreams are. If you can’t think of anything to ask, start with, “What have you always wanted to do?”

“Why do you want to do that?”

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“What makes you so excited about it?”

“How long has that been your dream?”

You need this information the help you with the following steps.

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3. Encourage

This is the most important step, because starting a dream is scary. People are so scared they will fail or look stupid, many never try to reach their goals, so this is where you come in. You must encourage them. Say things like, “I think you will be great at that.” Better yet, say, “I think your skills in X will help you succeed.” For example if you have a friend who wants to own a pet store, say, “You are so great with animals, I think you will be excellent at running a pet store.”

4. Ask About What the First Step Will Be

After you’ve encouraged them, find how they will start. If they don’t know, you can make suggestions, but it’s better to let the person figure out the first step themselves so they can be committed to the process.

5. Dream

This is the most fun step, because you can dream about success. Say things like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if your business took off, and you didn’t have to work at that job you hate?” By allowing others to dream, you solidify the motivation in place and connect their dreams to a future reality.

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6. Ask How You Can Help

Most of the time, others won’t need anything from you, but it’s always good to offer. Just letting the person know you’re there will help motivate them to start. And, who knows, maybe your skills can help.

7. Follow Up

Periodically, over the course of the next year, ask them how their goal is going. This way you can find out what progress has been made. You may need to do the seven steps again, or they may need motivation in another area of their life.

Final Thoughts

By following these seven steps, you’ll be able to encourage the people around you to achieve their dreams and goals. In return, you’ll be more passionate about getting to your goals, you’ll be surrounded by successful people, and others will want to help you reach your dreams …

Oh, and you’ll become a motivational super hero. Time to get a cape!

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Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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