Whose Glasses Are You Wearing?
And Do They Suit You?
“Oh, it’s so obvious, what you want to do is, blah blah.” “Well, what you should do is xyz.” We’ve all done it, said it and been told it, haven’t we? ”What you need to do is” or “What you should do is” etc. Well, in fact, what we should do most of the time is ask a question rather than tell our family, friends or colleagues what it is they should do.
Not always easy I know. Time is short and it seems quickest to just tell rather than ask but just think about when someone last said to you “Now, it’s obvious, what you should do is xyz” and I bet you there was a part of you that was thinking “Grrr, how do you know what I should do?”
Imagine if you went to the optician and explained you’re finding it a strain to read close work these days or that you can’t see the bus even when it’s at the stop - bus, what bus? After listening to you for a couple of moments, the optician says “Aha, you should try these” and takes off their glasses and hands them to you saying “now then, these work a treat for me, really great. Use these and you’ll see much better. I know I do.”
Steven Covey uses this example in his brilliant book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and in the chapter entitled “Seek First to Understand” he poses the question - Whose Glasses Are You Wearing? It’s good to question yourself before you decide if the advice you’re given, however well-meaning, fits for you - especially if the advice-giver is less than a great example of a success in this area themselves! Hmm, sound familiar?
Good old questions generally help people so much more than dishing out advice ”tell me a bit more about that” or “what else have you noticed?” or “when did it start?” etc. This is also a nicer way of being in the world rather than being a ‘Quick Fixer’ or – even worse – an ‘Out-Trumper’ - “well if you think you’ve got a problem, try this for size, blah, blah blah” - someone who tries to out-trump you with their problems! Crikey, no thank you.
Operating in this open, inquisitive and curious way does 3 very strategic, positive things when you're working with people - or socialising - or both:
1. It keeps you open to finding out what's actually happening below the surface.
2. It buys you time to decide if, or how, you want to help or jump in.
3. It shows the other person you're listening to them rather than just waiting to jump in.
There’s always a rub, though. Recently at a party, after asking a chap (who shall remain nameless but let’s just call him Hugh R Dull) a number of questions about himself and his connection to the host, his career etc - after about 20 minutes of centre-stage droning on about himself I finally asked him “so Hugh, what would you like know about me?” He was, momentarily, stumped. Result. Not for long however but long enough for me to say – “Oh, and Hugh, is that the time? I must go and top up my glass and let you circulate.”
Enough said. You may not always want to give advice or wear other people's glasses but you do need an exit strategy.
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