There is a short video that shows the different approaches opposite genders take to resolve issues. A woman tries to share with her significant other a challenge that protrudes into her life. He sees it clearly… and tells her right away. However, she’s adamant what he says is not what it’s about.
Perhaps one reason this encounter hits the nail on the head for me is because it was 17 years into our marriage before I realized Kathy doesn’t want me to solve everything all the time. Sometimes she just wants me to listen. Of course, being male, this is a continuing struggle – as I am prone to jump in with an answer, often before she completes her thought.
The good news is that in my coaching work, I am much more attune with the needs of clients – and have no problem avoiding ‘the answer trap.’ While it’s tempting to say, “I’ve seen this many times; here’s what you need to do,” that’s an instant solution that doesn’t do anything to help the client grow. While a quick fix solves something right now, what skills has the person learned to make better decisions?
Coaching is about giving clients space to open up, reflect and grow. We do this by asking open-ended questions (“What? How? When?”) that allow the person being coached to choose her own path. That’s much more powerful than my opinion. After all, there’s a strong likelihood she’s already asked a few others for their thoughts. Why would she need me to add another one and, perhaps, create more uncertainty?
So the next time someone shares a situation with you, the best thing you can do is pause and ask: “Do you want me to listen or tell you what I think?” She’ll let you know.
*** Here’s a link to the 1:41 video.