Monday, 22 February 2010

The power of listening

I once was engaged in an activity on a training day where everyone was asked to think of a little life problem that needed to be solved. Nothing major, just something like what to buy so and so for their birthday present or a little inconvenience that we needed to sort.

We than found a partner and sat directly opposite them. We took it in turns to have five minutes opposite our partner just talking about the 'problem' while she or he sat facing us actively listening. By actively listening, we meant giving good eye contact, nodding and saying things like 'yes' and 'go on'.

When we were asked to give feedback. Nearly everyone had solved their problem.

The reason?

If there is a problem, the person with it has most authority over it. They have all the insider knowledge, are the most tuned into the problem and are the person that can work out the most-likely-to-work and palatable solution for their unique circumstances. So unless the problem needs the input of specialised knowledge, the problem owner is the best problem solver.

Funny because when someone comes to most people with a problem, they feel the need to offer a variety of solutions when the best thing they could do in most cases is probably be quiet and listen.


  1. We just had to have a 6 hour training session about this. You've put it far better than she did in about 5 minutes! We should have got you in!

  2. Ah, but those nice people from Mars sometimes think that their role is to SOLVE the problem :)

  3. I want to form an exercise in which two people, 'A' and 'B', are assigned problems whose solutions are at odds with each other, yet they still have to describe their problems to each other soliciting advice. Bonus points for being the first to figure out the predicament.


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