“What should I do about _______?”

That is a common question we hear from others. Our spouse, our kids, a coworker, a friend.

What I’ve learned is that they don’t always want you to answer that. Sometimes, answering that can be bad for both parties.

A response that works is ‘Do you want a coach or a cheerleader?”

What Does A Coach Mean?

If someone says they want a coach, what they are asking for is your advice.

Help them solve their problem or at least give them options or ask clarifying questions.

What I’ve learned is that what they really want is not a coach but a cheerleader.

What Does A Cheerleader Mean?

If someone says they want a cheerleader, what they mean is they want your support. They want to know someone has their back.

“I can’t believe that!”
“You got this!”
“Oh, I bet that’s tough.”

A simple cheerleader response let’s them know they’ve been heard. That’s what they’re looking for.

Why This Framework Works

I pay my therapist $115/hour and most the time he just asks me questions and as I answer them the situation starts to work itself out.

What my therapist is doing is giving me space to think through my problem.

In Summary

The next time someone brings a problem to you, pause, think about what they’re asking, and then clarify with ‘Do you want a coach or a cheerleader?”

It’s that simple.