Lately it seems like the phrase I hear more often than any other is “You know what you should do…” followed by a suggestion for my business. Or one of my friends’ businesses.
I highly discourage anyone from starting a sentence with that phrase, especially when you are talking to a friend who is trying to build a company/product. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the interest, far from it, but 9 times out of 10 it’s something we’ve heard 50 times before. And more than that, telling people what they should do, even when you’re just offering advice, is annoying.
There are a few ways to avoid this and keep yourself on your self-employed friend’s good side. First and foremost is to refrain from offering unsolicited opinions. If they’ve got that glassy-eyed “oh god I’ve been working 60 hours a day and I still have 100 things to do” look, keep your suggestions to yourself. For the sake of peace. Even if it’s a good idea, the thought of adding one more item to the brainpile might just be too much. If you think you’re really onto something, offer to share them when the person feels up to it. Saying “if you’re interested later I’ve got a couple ideas for you” is a lot less imposing than “hey you should make those blue.”
The second option is to keep just change your wording. Don’t say, “you should…” say, “have you considered…” The difference is subtle, but can make the conversation flow a lot smoother.
For example, a lot of people suggest that I should sell my Tinysaurs in natural history museum shops. This is a great idea, albeit not a new one. The thing is there are some high barriers to entry for those shops, and without an in through some social networking they’re pretty much unavailable to me. I’ve spent a while researching it and it’s been pretty frustrating. Changing the sentence to “have you considered selling these in museum shops” makes it much less awkward for me to say “yeah, but it turns out its pretty hard for someone at my level to get their stuff sold there.”
“Have you considered…” or “what if you tried..” is handy even if your suggestions are soilicited. It’s a small change in phrase, but can make a big difference to the ears of an entrepeneur who is swamped with ideas and only has two hands to execute them.