15 June 2012

What Does (S)he Need?

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.

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