Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Work Life: If you need help, pause to listen (also works for normal life)

A close person had asked what sorts of food to make and was clearly asking me for assistance. 
"What food should I make?"
"There isn't much ingredients."
"It is hard to decide."
"Give me a list of things I can make."
And on and on and on...

I even made some attempts to provide some feedback. I tried using handle signal for a pause or a few seconds. Eventually even trying to interrupt. But she just kept on going for 30+ minutes, even repeating questions/statements.

She is definitely not the first person that I interacted with like that. Even at work there are people who just keep on asking, repeating the same question, talking a mile-a-minute, etc. These people at least you can kind of ignore or build a method to get out.

The worst are people who have an open Q&A to a presentation. They use half the time to present, then uses the second half asking for questions, to be open about questions, etc. There would be people with raised hands or try to get attention, but the presenter just keeps on going.

My Advice

1. Be comfortable with very uncomfortable silence
2. Pauses in your speech. 


1. Some people do not interrupt out of respect. It is more polite to hear the whole thing before responding.
2. Who's helping who? If you are asking for help, it is not my problem that you run out of time.
3. Respect runs both ways. If you do not respect my time, then I am less likely to interrupt you to help you.

(Bonus Skill) Learn to Empathize and Summarize

I understand that most people are unable to understand this so I will give a pass to some people (but know that I will still be irritated inside).

Empathy is your ability to put yourself in someone else's situation and have an interest to help. You do not need to fully understand especially the emotional part. In this case of seeking help, you need to understand who your audience is. Do they know your situation? Do they know the details? Do they know enough to help solve your problem? The counter-balance to this is to also know when too much information is too much information. The easiest is to listen if they have questions. Part of this is also to understand the person is also trying to come up with a solution within a limited period of time that you have spent significantly more time on.

I have no answer how to practice empathy. One of the common tests to see if someone has empathy is by just listening tell you their day. People with low empathy will commonly just jump from story to story with no context. No identifiers to understand that "he" in story 1 is different from "he" in story 2. And when it becomes clearer that story 2 is in place and I speak up, the speaker actually gets more irritated, frustrated, and/or angry.

Maybe I am not a great listener, but an empathetic person should change their speech patterns to their audience. That is essentially what empathy is. I have had little luck in explaining empathy to less-empathetic people. When I explain empathy to highly-empathetic people, I am not really explaining empathy. I am mostly teaching them other points-of-views that they haven't considered, then they go to town with it.

But on the most basic level, if you are asking someone to solve a problem... they need to have all the ingredients to solve the problem. If you lack an ingredient, then they will either say it is unsolvable or they will assume certain values or defaults (whether it is correct or not because maybe it may still help).

On the other hand, do not overwhelm them with information. So learn to summarize. Give as much ingredients as possible that is needed but not too much more than needed.

All this is just to get information from a person one time with little past negative history. To get continued help is another level of empathy. How is this experience going to help or detract some from help you in the future? Some people may help you this time but if the experience is poor, will they help in the future. In summary, empathy is not just a moment but also multi-level. Fortunately if you are starting to understand empathy, some empathetic people will understand and give some leeway. This is probably one of the few things that I believe hard-work and time will help anyone's quest to be more empathetic.

No comments:

Post a Comment