My mother and I were on the phone. She was telling me about a difficulty she was having with someone else. It had her very upset. I was being a good daughter, or so I thought.
I could see the solution to her problem clearly. I began to give her step-by-step instructions on how to deal with this issue. As I spoke, she gave me very little feedback. I thought she didn’t understand. So, I broke the steps down. Instead of a-b-c, I went halfway through the alphabet. How clear could I be? She still wasn’t responding. I couldn’t see her face over the phone, but I could tell I wasn’t getting through.
So I changed tactics. I decided to take over. I would intervene and solve the problem for her. As I started to outline this new version of the solution, she snapped:
“Chrrrrrrrristine Ann,” she drew my name out with intensity. (As a side note, has a parent ever called you by your full first and middle name? What does that mean? To me, it means that I’m in trouble. It certainly got my attention. I stopped short.) “Christine Ann,” she repeated, “That’s not what I need from you right now!” I was stunned. What do you think she needed from me? It wasn’t instruction. It wasn’t action. I was clueless.
That was the day I discovered there are different types of responses that are appropriate for different people sharing different problems. She wanted me to simply listen. That episode taught me about responses.
Now, I actively listen to someone sharing an issue to determine what his or her needs may be. Then I choose a response to suit the situation.
As a trainer, learning is what I do best. I hope never to hear my name in that tone of voice again.
Consider and utilize these optional styles of responding to a person who is sharing a problem:
• Advisor – tell the sharer how to fix the problem, “Here is what you should do.”
• Reassurer – give the sharer some encouragement like, “Don’t worry, it will be OK.”
• Agreer – buy in to the sharer’s emotions by saying, “You’re right, I’d be mad too!”
• Doer – this style of responder wants to take control and do something about it on behalf of the sharer.
• Accepter – acknowledge and show understanding of the sharer’s feelings, but don’t try to change them.
Practice listening for the needs of the person sharing an issue, and try to respond with a style that nourishes them.
Chris Waugh is a business consultant, author and speaker who “lends wings to your success.” Visit ChrisWaugh.com or Facebook.com/chriswaughonthefly for more.For the complete article see the 07-10-2013 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 07-10-2013 paper.
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