The smallest thing can make the largest difference. The slightest change in tone of voice or spelling can change the meaning of everything that is being said, including the effectiveness and impact. There are two words which are almost identical but have significantly different meaning and affect, direction or directions.

Most people have no problem giving directions. We are adept at identifying things others should do or change. We get directions on our job or as students. Food often comes with directions for preparation and products we purchase have assembly instructions. We are familiar with directions. That same enthusiasm for instructions does not necessarily translate to our desire to follow directions.

Direction is different. Direction is active in that it is something we are doing or somewhere we are going. It is the course along which we move. While directions often indicate a beginning and ending that usually spans a short period of time, the destination of direction may not be immediately clear.

People are much more likely to follow your direction, than your directions. This can be seen early on when parenting. We struggle to get children to follow directions but they are quick to mimic our behaviors and speech. It is because people follow our direction without us even asking, but often resist being given directions. If you are doing it, then it must be safe to do. That is direction.

There are some specific reasons why using your direction to influence others is more effective than only giving directions. Each of us want to influence others for good and we probably have more influence than we realize. If our goal is to influence our family and our circle of relationships for good, it would benefit us to understand the value of direction. Here are a few keys to understanding why one is more influential than the other.  

Knowledge

Giving directions only requires you to know about something. Directions do not require you to know much, they just require enough knowledge to make you dangerous. Allowing others to follow your direction requires a different type of knowledge. You don’t just know about it, you have to know it for yourself. It is like the difference between a travel agent and a tour guide. A travel agent sends people to a lot of destinations that they only have some knowledge about. A tour guide takes people to places that they personally know. Direction has greater influence because the knowledge is more intimate and personal.

Experience

The greatest parents in the world are the people who have never had children. They usually have all of the answers, saying things like “if that was my child I would _______.” They say those things because they have no experience. Their statements may be well intended, but often are not practical in the context of relationship.  Many of us said these things prior to having children. Then we realized that parenting was not a simple formula or set of rules, but that it was fluid and each situation had to be addressed differently. Non-parents can give directions to other parents. Parents can offer direction because they have experience. We do not need any experience to give directions, but we will have experience when we are offering direction. It is the difference between do as I say and do as I do.

Protection

When we give directions we send people to attempt a task or face a challenge on their own. When we offer direction we are participating in the same journey. As people travel in the same direction, there is protection that is offered to one another because they face the same challenges and frustrations. When there is danger, one can warn the other. When there is discouragement, others can lift their spirits. King Solomon would remind us that there is safety in numbers when he wrote “9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT. There is protection when we are on the same journey instead of just pointing to a destination.

Each of us has a sphere of influence. Our goal is to make sure we are making the maximum impact on those around us. We have the most impact on our family, then our close friends and the circle expands from their. Our influence will increase when we practice the art of leading by direction and not just giving directions.

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