There's a question that I've begun to ask myself whenever I'm in a one-on-one situation with another person. It's a pretty simple question, really--what does this person need?
You see, my role in any
interaction is up to me. Usually we just follow along in a simple role
without giving it much thought. If someone starts talking to us, we just
start talking back, and our role is just as a participant in a
conversation. But often we have the opportunity to be something
different--something more, even--if we take the time and make the effort to try
to assess the situation.
For example, someone may come
to me and ask for advice. On the surface, that's fine, and I may start
giving advice. But if I ask myself, what does she really need?, I may come
up with a different response. I may realize that she doesn't really want
advice, but just wants someone to talk to so that she can make up her own
mind. In that case, I can serve her best by listening closely, and maybe
asking a few well-times questions, such as "What do you think would be best
to do?" Or I may see that the person is feeling a bit lost, and could
use a little encouragement. So rather than responding to his comment about
a rough day by talking about just how rough my own day has been, I can reply by
offering that encouragement, sincerely, from the heart. The encouragement
will go a lot further than just playing the one-upmanship game.
Someone who just injured
himself may be afraid, and may need to talk about the injury and his fears
rather than hearing about how I hurt myself in a similar way. Someone
who's having relationship problems may need to be directed to think about how
his or her partner feels rather than being given advice on how relationships
work, or how to fix them. If I truly and sincerely ask myself, "what
does this person need?," then I can serve that person in the best way that
I know how. Just falling into a casual conversation usually isn't going to
lead to the best of outcomes for the other person, so it's up to me to try to
give all that I can to anyone who needs it--and most people need something from
us at least some of the time.