How many times have you gone to a partner, friend, or boss and you really just needed them to listen to you, not give advice, not “fix it,” just listen and instead they start giving you the solution, or tell you what they would do or what you should do?
It can be very frustrating for both people when all you want is a venting session and all they want is to give you the solution. There is one simple question you can start the conversation with when someone comes to you to talk – “do you want to vent, do you want advice, or do you want a solution?” and then maybe the hardest part of all comes into play, you must do what they asked for. Now that might sound easy but just listening is not easy for many people, including myself. I am a problem solver, an action taker, so if you come to me with an issue or venting, I immediately go into solution mode. I mean within seconds I have the plan and the solution. This trait helps me in my profession but not so much in my relationships. This can really frustrate people because they just want someone to listen to them and vent about what is bothering them, not someone telling them what to do.
One tip I can give you for any situation- vent, advice, or solution, is to ask questions. Instead of giving your oppinion and your solution continue to ask questions, it will help the person come up with what is best for them in the situation, without you imposing your opinions and logic on them. This is a skill that should be practiced especially if you a “problem solver,” it can be hard to hold back and not give your solution but think of it this way, when you ask questions instead of giving the answers, the person has an opportunity to grow and discover that they too are a problem solver they just need a little extra probing to get to what is best for them.
Give it a try this week when someone comes to tell you something, ask them “do you need to vent or are you looking for advice or a solution?" You can also say this when you are starting the conversation. “Hey, can we talk I really need some advice?” or “I really need someone to vent to can we chat?” Then pay attention, did this simple question or statement change how your conversation went? I bet it did!
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