Listen to others before offering advice

Listen to others before offering advice

Agribusiness
It is all too easy to jump straight into solution mode when we are talking to someone. Quite often people just need someone to empathise with them, and this means letting them talk.

It is all too easy to jump straight into solution mode when we are talking to someone. Quite often people just need someone to empathise with them, and this means letting them talk.

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The saying "we have two ears and one mouth for a reason" is well-known, and is a very good maxim to live your life by, in my view.

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The saying "we have two ears and one mouth for a reason" is well-known, and is a very good maxim to live your life by, in my view.

Basically, it means keep quiet and listen.

It is all too easy to jump straight into solution mode when we are talking to someone. Quite often, people just need someone to empathise with them, and this means letting them talk. Be present in the moment, and really listen.

I see this problem a lot in the world of professional services. The accountant or consultant normally goes into meetings with a mindset that they are the professional that is being engaged to fix a problem, and give advice.

As hard as it can be not to jump in and offer advice immediately, you really need to understand all the issues first.

This is exactly what they do, without first really finding out what is driving the issue at-hand.

Hopefully I don't suffer from this mindset, although maybe I did in earlier times. I know I have sat in meetings where the person engaged to dispense advice does exactly that. That is fine, except the default language is technical, as this is how the professional person communicates with colleagues.

These situations can be like a slow train wreck unfolding. The professional is explaining a technical concept, but the client isn't really understanding what is being said. The professional sees this, and tries to explain it differently. Only problem is, the only way they know how to communicate a bit differently is to use even more jargon. The client's eyes glaze over. This is the classic lose-lose situation.

Both parties are specialists in their respective fields, there is just an issue with how they can communicate with each other. This can be easily fixed by either party by continually asking questions, and if the communications are not going well, stop, reset, and do it differently.

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It does pay to listen intently before you offer any advice, as the person that has sought you out has much more background about the issue than you do.

You cannot be expected to pick up the nuances of the situation within the first five minutes.

The person asking for advice clearly thinks you have something to offer, either in a professional or personal sense, but they are not expecting instantaneous answers - or at least they shouldn't be.

As hard as it can be not to jump in and offer advice immediately, you really need to understand all the issues first. Quite often there are some emotions attached to the question being asked. This is when you really need to step back, and give that person as much time as they need to get everything they want to say out in the open.

You will make a much better contribution if you take the time to really understand the underlying issues.

It's easy just to tell the other person what they want to hear. This is the path of least resistance and is often preferred at the time; as humans we have a desire to be liked. But, a better way to have a longer-lasting result is to tell the other person what you really think, in an empathetic, measured way.

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