I had a rambling discussion yesterday with my daughter during which we agreed that it is a great thing when we can share our observations openly with someone, including all the interesting complexity, contradictions, and emotional component, without that person reducing the observations into a narrowly slotted or simple conclusion.
The ability to hear what someone is telling you without stripping away all the nuances and without assuming that they want your sage advice or helping hand does not come easily or naturally. Some of us have a tendency to do exactly that–give advice liberally or fix what sounds like problems to us–believing that it will be appreciated. Look at me, for example: I’m writing a blog!
However, giving free rein to that tendency limits relationships in a variety of ways:
- You convey that the person needs your help even if they feel otherwise.
- If there really is a problem, you impose your solutions rather than giving the person opportunity to come up with their own.
- The tendency is frustrating to the person who simply wishes to share their thoughts and experiences with you.
- In the future that person is likely to heavily edit or share less of their thoughts with you knowing your tendency to rush to judgment.
- You miss out on discovering the richness and depth of the person’s thoughts and perspective.
- If you know little about the circumstances you might feel burdened with having to come up with a solution, or feel obligated to take on responsibility for the fix. Don’t you have other things you rather be doing?
Even if you have the tendency to tell and help, don’t despair. Through regular practice, even I was able to turn it off most of the time. Certainly I am called on to just tell and help when it is efficacious, but I no longer do it as a default.
And the best thing is that compared to when I am being “bossy,” I enjoy much deeper relationships, more fun and interesting conversations, get more respect, and feel less stress from my perceived need to fix others’ problems.
var _gaq = _gaq || ; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-31032083-1']); _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);