In a recent post we looked at the importance of listening. Just listening; not problem-solving.
While there are times that proactively helping someone solve a problem is very legitimate, paradoxically, not trying to solve a problem is often the best way to have it solved. By simply listening (allowing the other person to be heard) the problem often simply dissolves. Or, just as well, the person solves the problem themselves, which empowers them and helps build another leader.
As mentioned, I’ve had to work very hard at improving myself in this area. When someone comes to me with a problem, I still have to fight my inclination to go into fixing-mode and, instead, just listen. Writing the previous post reminded me of a recent situation in that regard.
On a speaking trip there was a logistical mix-up in one city that caused some distress for the person who planned the meeting, as well as for me. It was really nothing more than a miscommunication but it caused some negative feelings for the meeting planner, and she wanted to speak with Kathy and me personally in order to bring some closure to it.
We did a three-way conference call and she began to relate the story from her point of view. Knowing that some information had been related to her by our mutual client and desiring to put her mind at ease, I began to explain what had happened. Naturally, I did this feeling that — by telling her this — she’d feel better, realizing I understood she was not at fault.
Suddenly, I noticed my Skype Instant Message pop up with a message from Kathy. It simply said:
“Bob, I think she really just needs to be listened to right now. :-)”
Point taken. Kathy was right. She simply needed to be heard. She had been frustrated by feeling that her actions had been misunderstood and simply needed us to listen. Satisfied that was now the case, all was fine.
Meanwhile, I still have a ways to go in the “listening…really just listening” department. 🙂
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I believe we would all be and do better if we had an on-going IM with Kathy. 🙂
Profound statement Doug! Reminds me of Joe and his wife in “The Go-Giver” when he unknowingly applied The Law of Influence by doing just that
Kathy’s advice works well when we also apply it to our marriages! Good post.
“Men Are From Mars – Women Are From Venus”, the theory – Really works, isn’t it Bob?
I keep reminding my husband about it 🙂 and catch myself in that trap of “problem solving” at times.
Awesome reminder Bob. We are hardwired to be a problem solver… and need constant reminders to apply these soft skills when time comes. Kathy did a great job at the right time. Thanks for sharing.
Kathy is right, and yet, it’s hard when most of the time I’m in “problem-solving” gear. However, just listening….does amazing things for the soul.
Kathy is brilliant as are you for listening to her too! This advice also speaks to the importance and good practice of letting people have their say and to feel that they are being “heard”. This is an proven strategy that’s recommended to help those suffering mental health issues, such as stress, find their way to wellness. Thanks for bringing this important message to your audience!
Great post, Bob & great timimg on Kathy’s part.
I’ve gotten in trouble at home with this one more times than I can count, however I think I’m finally starting to at least employ more than not.
Thanks for shining light on this important human relation interaction and insight into it.
Thanks for sharing this lesson, Bob. We who are professional problem solvers (LOL) may assume if someone is explaining a challenge to us, they are also asking for our advice or suggestions. It takes true compassion and strength (and consciousness in the moment) to just “be” in the other person’s world by listening.
Thinking about this & reading the other comments, Bob, I wonder if it really is counter intuitive to simply listen with empathy (rather than solve) to another?
Is it really a Men-Mars-Women-Venus thing?
Alternatively, it may be (particularly Western-) conditioning that has set us up for acting in this behavioral stimulus-response pattern.
Wow. Excellent reminder! 🙂
Hi Everyone – was out most of yesterday so my apologies for not having responded to your individual comments. Please excuse these very brief comments while knowing that I appreciate you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts and wisdom with us.
Dean: That would certainly seem to be the case. In any relationship, that kind of listening and be a very positive and helpful aspect.
Linda: I agree. Kathy’s wisdom always seems to “hit the mark” doesn’t it?
Hi Snigdah: Not sure how much it’s a Mars/Venus things as much as it’s a human thing. I can only speak for myself that I have that natural tendency to want to solve the problem. I’m sure many women are like that, as well. And, it seems there are men who just want to be listened to and woman who want to problem-solve. But, is one gender more prone to do so than the other? There probably is some Mars/Venus at work, though not sure to what degree. Anyone??
Ali: It really does, doesn’t it? Seems to help everyone involved.
Leanne: What great advice. Thank you. Yes, sometimes people just need to be listened to and, when they are, everything about them begins to heal.
Heather: I have a feeling that we’re not the only ones who struggle with that. The key is that we all keep working on improving ourselves in this regard.
Tshombe: Regarding your first comment, yes, I agree. Great points.
Tshombe: Regarding your second comment 🙂 I meant “counter-intuitive” in that it would seem that in order to solve a problem you need to advise the other person where, in reality, often the best way to solve is not to try and…actively solve.” That’s the counter-intuitive part. Re: Mars vs. Venus, as I suggested to Snigdha, I don’t really know. I think that it probably is to a point but I’m not persuaded that that is all there is to it. I still think it’s more a “human thing” than a Man/Woman thing. Regarding Western conditioning…I don’t know. Do Eastern cultures not do this, as well?
When you spend all day solving problems it is hard to shut it off and just listen. I think it might be even harder if you are closer to someone, after all we think we know what they need.
Perhaps as a compromise we could “participate” in the process just by asking lots of questions without leading to a solution or judgement? Sort of active listening. By actively doing something in the listening it might be easier to avoid offering solutions when we don’t have Kathy on IM and haven’t mastered switching quickly from work mode to listening mode.
I’ll have to think on it and experiment. Thanks Bob.
Doug, thank you for your comment and I agree with you that first…yes, it’s difficult. And, two, it’s even more difficult with someone you are close to. After all, not only do we sometimes believe we know what they need; it’s also a matter of – when we love someone, their pain is our pain and we want their problem to be solved. Your suggestion regarding the comprise is excellent, though I don’t think it’s a compromise as much as it’s a matter of there being a time and place for everything. Remember my statement at the top of the second paragraph which said: “While there are times that proactively helping someone solve a problem is very legitimate…”
In other words, there are times to proactively problem solve, times to question in order to help the person and times to, such as the case with the person in this article, just listen.
Thanks again, my friend. Look forward to seeing you soon at the retreat!