Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Little Ditty About Advice (wherein her "but" is exposed)




You're listening, you swear you are. The person in front of you is dispensing some well thought out advice and you are hearing them talk to you. At least you think you are. In between assimilating what they are saying and constructing the awesome response you will give as soon as they take a breath, that is. They are looking expectantly at you now, you almost missed the opportunity! Here it comes... The wind up... And the pitch!

"Yeah, but..." Fizzle, spark, GAH! Seriously? Did I just say that? Did I really just say in those two little words, "I am not listening to you because I already have all my excuses listed out in my own head, and although it may have sounded like I wanted your advice, I just wanted you to sit here and pat my hand while I griped about my circumstances." Uh, yeah, Stace, I think you did. Well doesn't that just suck!

Been there done that, have ya? Welcome to my world. It's a quandary. I am catching myself doing it less these days, but I guess that has a lot to do with my current surroundings. Maybe my current surroundings have more to do with this habit? Now ain't that a chicken and egg scenario. Harumph. But what do I do about it? How do I get past the "yeah, but" stage and into a more positive, less whiny, less self-serving outlook on my own life?

First, I think I have to take a good look at my motivation for sitting in front of the advisor in the first place. Sometimes, we simply want to talk, us women do... We want to kvetch about our issues and get a little girl time in there. We want to gripe about our husbands, our kids, our jobs, etc. That's what we do. So much so that our male counterparts think it is all we do when we get together. We like to call it "venting." (Call it venting, men - Do yourselves a favor!)

There are other times that we simply want to know if we are alone. We want to put out there our circumstance and have the listener say to us, "Oh, Honey! I know exactly what you are talking about!" To come together with a woman-friend who truly can relate to our own frustrations is comforting and confidence building. We think we are all alone in our trials, and that isolation can be a dangerous thing, so coming together with a trusty confidante is our attempt to make sure we aren't one step away from the looney bin.

Not often, but there are times, I really want an answer to the questions I put out there. I want advice, and I want it now! I may be exhausted, I may be confused, I may be hoping I missed something. So why then does my response seem to be one of such dismissal? It may be a case of simple vernacular. I could be so overwhelmed I cannot find the right words to say to you, "That is an interesting thought. I have touched on it before and this concern has always pushed me away. Do you have a way around that?" Ahem... Why are you shaking your head? You don't buy it? Yeah, neither do I!

The thing is, when I say, "Yeah, but..." It is a definite give away that I didn't really want advice or a solution in the first place. I either wanted a confidant, a Yes-woman or an accomplice. My motivation wasn't to get the problem solved, it was to have my problem validated. Unfortunately, my would-be advisor is now frustrated with me because they thought out a response, tried to deliver to me a solution, and I outright rejected it because I wasn't clear as to what I needed from the interaction.

I have a friend and part time business advisor who is great at watching my face when I am venting to her. She sits and listens quietly, waits until I look at her expectantly and then asks a very pointed question. "Do you want advice on this, or am I just being Friend-Kelly?" It makes me take a serious look at what I am saying, how I am acting and what my response might be should she pony up a well thought out response. It gives me a moment to assess my own needs and my own solutions as well. There have even been moments when after a split-second of silence, we have both broken out in laughter. Because we are such long time friends, I can even preface a conversation with, "I don't need a solution to this, I am just in need of someone to gripe to," and she is prepared with the appropriate response before I ever utter one word.

The next time you're deep in conversation with someone, whether you are in the advisor role or the one who is pitching a b----, and those two little words are tempted to come out of your mouth or you hear them uttered and want to get a little miffed, think about what you really want out of the situation. And try not to let your "Yeah, but" out of the bag unnecessarily. Compassion and understanding go a long way to building relationships that matter and when we are too busy formulating a response to the people we interact with, we miss some amazing opportunities to grow ourselves into invaluable friends.

It never hurts to ask, "Do you want me to give you advice or just listen?" That kind of response shows that you are involved and willing to put more of yourself out there if desired. It also shows that you are willing to put aside your need to be the superhero and listen when that is all someone wants. It is a harder role to take, for sure, but if a response on the advice level isn't desired, it won't be received well anyway. You will get the "yeah, but," and no one needs that!

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And as for those of you who thought you'd see my butt... Shame on you! (giggle)