Suppose Michael was eating lunch with his best friend Sam

Sam looked like something was on his mind and was not paying attention in the conversation the conversation at all

Michael then started to ask him questions and try to listen,

Michael: "Hey you're not paying attention to the food at all what's on your mind?"
Sam: "I am torn, I feel like my life is not going the way I want it to and I am not moving forward at all. What should I do?"
Michael: "That's easy, career is the most important focus you need to have right now. Focus on that first, once you have money everything else will fall into place"
Sam: "I guess that makes sense"

This is typically how a normal conversation will go between friends who lack the listening skills.

What went wrong

Michael was offering to listen, but in reality, he was offering to give advice. He never truly listened and understand the real reason behind Sam's thoughts and feelings

Michael felt like he knew exactly what was going and had to jump in and offer help to Sam

This is very common for a lot of novice listeners out there

Have you ever get super excited feeling that you knew what is going and felt the urge to quickly jump in and offer advice and tips?

It may sound good on the surface, but in reality this is not doing any good for 2 reasons:

  1. You did not fully listen and understand the other person
  2. Your advice and tips don't matter

1. You did not fully listen and understand the other person

Before you decide to give advice to someone you must fully understand what is gong on. You cannot just go half way throughout the diagnosis and jump to conclusions immediately

The goal of listening is to listen and understand completely

Sometimes even if you know what is going on, you still must continue to listen and let them finish their thoughts completely

You are here to listen

You are here to understand

You are here to give them a mental therapy

Any interruption to their thoughts will stop you from achieving the goal of listening

A doctor cannot give prescription to the patient if he does not do a full diagnosis on the patients and knows what is going on

If he jumps into conclusions right away, he will give the wrong medicine to the patient

The wrong medicine will not help anyone although it is filled with good intentions

Same with the advice that you are giving to your friend when listening

And here' comes the next shocking part

2. Your advice and tips don't matter

Unless if the person is asking you advice on technical skills such as:

  • how to kick better in kickboxing, or
  • how to get your next client in consulting

Unless if you actually achieved success in these technical skills, THEN your advice and tips actually matter

What it comes to relationships and decisions on what the person truly wants in life, your advice and tips don't matter

This one is a hard one to swallow for the ego

It is also very counterintuitive too

Yes, you don't matter in their world

You are not the center of their world

You are not that person

You don't know what he/she truly wants

How can you tell them what they want to do when they are the ones who knows what they want the best?

The answer is you don't!

Then what must are we supposed to do?

Solution

When someone comes to you and ask you "what should I do?"

It is actually a trick question

You never tell them what to do

Your job is to help guide them to understand themselves first

Then you turn the table around and ask "what do you think you should do?"

No ego

No giving advice and tips

Because these two don't matter at all in helping them

How conversation should have gone

Let's revisit the conversation between Michael and Sam and see what should have happened:

Michael: "Hey you're not paying attention to the food at all what's on your mind?"
Sam: "I am torn, I feel like my life is not going the way I want it to and I am not moving forward at all. What should I do?"
Michael: "So you are feeling like you are stuck?"
Sam: "Yeah. Nothing is going the way i wanted it to. I wanted to get master's degree to improve my career but never really got to it."
Michael: "Why were you not able to get to it?"
Sam: "Because what I really want is not master's degree"
Michael: "What did you really want?"
Sam: "I want to settle down and have a family more than anything else"
Michael: "So what you want is to find your love and have family together"
Sam: "Yes! That is exactly it"

This story is very similar to a conversation I had with a friend with exception of few things

Without careful listening and guidance to the answers, Michael would have given the wrong advice to Sam all along

With careful listening and guidance, Michael was able to:

  1. Help Sam uncover his true desires, what he really wants
  2. Help Sam to get to come to his own conclusion and answer to his question "what should I do?"
  3. Give Sam a mental therapy knowing that he has a safe place to share his intimate deep thoughts and desires that he never knew existed

Remember this:

Your advice and tip don't matter

By not giving advice to the listenee

You open up room to let the person explore his own mind and

You let him come up with his own decisions

You complete your job as a listener