Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When Did s/he Give the Impression s/he Needed Your Advice?

Communicate openly through deep listening |
“Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.” ~Sue Patton Thoele

Sound Familiar?

Often times, I have found that when an individual chooses to invite someone into their private space whether for personal or for professional reasons, 9 times out of 10, s(he) only wants to talk and clear his/her mind.  Now, here comes the kicker in all this.  The one who is listening to what is being said -- often times -- automatically presumes that he or she has somehow received the green light to communicate their opinion, thoughts, and offer advice when in fact, his/her presumption couldn’t be more further from the truth.  

Allow me to draw you a picture in the form of a dialogue between two professional colleagues, using the pseudo names Bob and Rachel.

Do You Want to Talk?

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.” ~Peter Drucker

Bob has had “THE” day of all days, filled with unwanted surprises, one shoddier than the other.  Just when he thought his day couldn’t get any worse, he gets a call from his attorney that “the deal” did not go through, the very deal he desperately needed to financially secure stuff at the home front as well as at the office.  He slams the door to his office, and literally closes himself off from the world at this point, not knowing what to think, how to feel, what to say, what steps to take next, completely in a state of shock, almost to the point of feeling numb. 

Just 30 minutes later, a close business colleague of his that he had not seen in over a year, decides to surprise him and pay a visit at the office.  Of course, she had no idea of the day he has had.  Filled with excitement, she charges into his office, only to find a dark space where the office blinds were shut tight, and him lying down on the floor, as if he was lifeless.  In that moment, she collects herself, tempers her joy, and softly calls out his name.  [WISE CHOICE by Rachel to temper her joy and to use a softer tone to greet Bob, creating a space of trust and comfort].

Rachel:  “Bob, its Rachel.”

Bob:  “Rachel, please don’t take this offensively, but can you come back tomorrow, or any other day but today?”

   “No worries.  I’ll come back tomorrow then.”  [Again, wise choice by Rachel, not to question Bob, but to act on what he requested, leaving him room to breathe and think. So far so good, but then...]

 “WAIT!  Don’t go!  The truth is, your visit is the first good thing that has happened today, and what I said earlier, scratch it.  I was reacting from emotions.  You just caught me by surprise, and for what it’s worth, I’m glad you are here.” [Instead of roaring like a lion, Bob decides to share his space with Rachel. Result -- signs of calmness, comfort, transparency, authenticity, and trust are slowly beginning to surface and clear the air of tension... so far so good...let's see what happens next...] 

Rachel:  “Bob, do you want to talk?”  [Excellent choice of words to ask, “do you want to talk” as opposed to “are you ok” or “is everything ok”?  WHY?  Rachel in effect is respecting Bob’s space, as opposed to invading his private thoughts, leaving him room to make the decision if he wants to talk, free of judgment and presumption.  Secondly, Rachel is not coming off condescending or superior, but rather “human”, from a position of trust.  As you keep reading, see how Bob continues to open up just a little more…]

Bob:  “Well, not really.  Besides, I wouldn’t even know where to start.  All I can tell you for now is that I have had the day from hell, and just trying to collect the pieces, get up and push forward as if this day did not exist!  I feel like I’m in a nightmare and all I want to do is wake up and snap out of it…”

Rachel cuts Bob off and immediately says, “Let me tell you what works for me during times like this …Here is what I recommend …” [BUZZER GOES OFF…“WRONG MOVE” ….Although unintentional, Rachel just pushed Bob even further away the second she chose to go on autopilot and offer unsolicited advice.  When did Bob give the impression he needed Rachel's advice?]

5 Take Aways:

While most of what I’m about to share with you may be construed as “known” knowledge, please remember that with practice, it becomes MORE THAN stand alone knowledge. What you will experience is
“knowledge WITH deeper understanding, resulting in open communication with mutual trust"!

1.  Whether we are experiencing ups OR downs in business or in life, it is absolutely vital to be cognizant of one’s private space at all times.

2.  When someone chooses to openly share about his/her situation, particularly when the situation is not pleasant, PRESUME NOTHING!

3.  Listen with heart on a “human” level, and be present with him/her in that moment, eye to eye, ear to ear, heart to heart, mind to mind -- free of assumptions and judgments of any kind.

4.  Offer advice, share thoughts, or express your opinions only when asked. Even then, take measures to be certain that he or she is truly looking for advice, or seeking to find answers himself/herself.

5.   If you are a coach, mentor, counselor of any kind, be sure to keep your ego in check; better yet, throw it out the door!  Just because someone has chosen to talk with you, does not place you in a superior position, but rather in a position of TRUST – HUGE difference!  Recognize this distinction as it is critical for ongoing, trusted communications and potential referrals in the future. 


  1. An enjoyable article with practical wisdom.

  2. Concise, respectful, right on the money.

    I must post this on my wall. But better yet .....

  3. Although it can be a challenge to bypass human nature by not giving unsolicitated advice if you can remember these thoughts you'll stay on the best path forward with anyone.

  4. Nice use of an example Annie....
    Offering support is helpful..advising without invitation may be attempting to control...not always welcome.
    I'm sure many of us have done it :-)
    ~ John

  5. A woman came up to me on the bus, the other day. After earlier - asking me for a cigarette on the street ( i do not smoke ), she sat down beside me and commented on my "handsome son." All of the sudden she began pouring out her heart .. Telling me that she is a "hooker" and a "cocaine addict." i had already ascertained as much.. Sitting in compassionate silence i allowed her to continue. Then, she shared the clincher ... This hollowed-out and heavenly soul had her "child taken." HER baby girl is now 5 1.2 months old! All i did was ask her, "Do you have anyone to talk to." Even this was almost too much for her, after she divulged with such emotion .. Soon after, she pretended smoking a rolled up cig, as she waited to get off at her 'stop." She offered so much and was so very grateful. Extending herself more than most .. when she supposedly has so little. With Heart and Compassion, Katherine - Dear Annie - wonderful blog- thank you for sending out common sense and decency, in a time where not much of either is often seen or given. Special K

  6. I have often made this mistake and it took a while to get better at it. When you ask an expert or friend for an opinion you really already know the answer - you need another person to just listen and ask more open ended questions. It is tough to not start solving problems especially for us folks with Testosterone on board.


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