“You don’t want to be doing it like that; you want to be doing like this…!”
If this sounds familiar you might be recalling British actor and comedian Harry Enfield playing a thoroughly annoying character in his popular TV show (this was one of his catch phrases). But there’s a fair chance you’ve encountered this closer to home.
When one party has wisdom to dispense (possibly out of a perfectly reasonable desire to be helpful) it can often result in one-way traffic where the poor recipient gets drenched with advice. Management guru Tom Peters coined the phrase ‘the 18-second boss’, this being the average length of time an authority figure (or expert) is able to listen to someone before interrupting and proffering their solution.
In Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, author John Gray describes an all-too familiar scenario where a woman complains about something and her husband quickly counters with, “Well why don’t you just…” It may be useful advice, but perhaps it’s too much too soon; a bucket-load delivered in one go!
People revealing an issue of some kind really want to be listened to. To give them a solution too early in the exchange simply leaves them feeling cheated and under-appreciated. What’s needed is a sympathetic ear, a period of listening and gentle probing to fully acknowledge the problem and understand the situation.
So the next time you feel compelled to dispense some wisdom resist the temptation to drench your victim with a bucket-full of advice. Instead, put the bucket to one side, let them off-load while you do some quality listening and then perhaps offer some suggestions (an espresso cupful at a time!).