Tired of being the person that people vent to?

  Frustrated man!Do you ever get sick of people coming to you with stuff?

  • Maybe it's stuff that is meaningless to you or
  • Maybe it's stuff that feels inappropriate for you to be told or
  • Maybe it's something that they should really be talking to someone else about or
  • Maybe you are just sick of someone always coming to you with their stuff

Before I share a really helpful solution, remember that you need to concentrate your energy on what you have control over. Pulling your hair out or rolling your eyes or whining to someone else about how much you hate being the person everyone "dumps on" isn't going to change a thing.  However, you do have complete control over what you say or do that either encourages or discourages the continuation of the unwanted behavior. So, let's assume that you have decided you are going to take control!

A few years ago, I stumbled on a response (or interruption) that can be extremely helpful for situations like these. When someone sits down and starts to "share", you can politely interrupt them and say "Before you get into this, can you tell me what you want me to do with this information?" You might be met with silence or they may ask you what you mean by that. Either one of those responses is an opening for you to elaborate.  "I will do a better job of listening if I know what you want me to do with this. Do you want me to help solve a problem? Do you want me to take your side? Do you want me take a message to someone for you? Do you want me to simply let you vent and say nothing so you can get this off your chest?" If it's a person that struggles getting to the point, you can ask "what do you want me to listen for in your story?"

Perhaps you have other options you could add to the list. I began doing this and it works beautifully!  I add a bit more by saying "I don't know both sides of the story so I won't be taking sides." "I am not going to be a messenger for you. Have you talked to them about this? " "I think you should work out your own solution to this issue." "I'm not comfortable having you talk to me about other people."

Every workshop I teach on communication I get questions about what to do when other people come to you venting about someone else ... This has been my response and frequently participants send me a note later telling me how much this has helped.

I am anxious to hear your comments this week on what you say in these situations.

PQ - Where could you use this strategy in your life, or with whom?  It takes courage to take control, but you will feel better when you are honest with them!

P.S. - if you are the person that does the venting to someone else, maybe you need to think about what you want the other person to do with what you are sharing BEFORE you share it!

How Do I Say Hard Things?

I LOVE it when I ask a question and you respond - thank you for doing that. Both myself and my subscribers benefit from your comments. This week, I had a comment from a reader about how hard it can be to hear someone be honest with us, and I am going to use that as this week's topic. Open and honest communication is very difficult; perhaps, that is why I spend so much time working with groups and individuals on that topic. Many of us are uncomfortable being honest - when what we are saying could be perceived as negative. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or damage relationships. There are many things you can do to improve in that area. I don't want to overwhelm you, so let's try something simple.  Here's a tip for that. When you are concerned about how something you are going to say is received by the other person, start with "My intention when I share this is .....  I am not sure it will come out the way I intend, but please keep in mind what my intent is.  Then, let's talk about what you heard me say and see if it matches what I intended to say. This relationship is important to me."


BIZ - You have an employee who does not always follow the rules or processes that are in place to help keep things running smoothly. One of the things you are trying to do in your department is to improve its appearance.  You have work in your department that requires a ton of paper - files, folders, reports, etc. You have finally figured out some simple storage solutions that will help make things look less messy PLUS keep thing organized.  One employee, who is an excellent employee, has left stacks of reports on the floor of her cube the last two weeks. She has always operated this way, and even though she now has a place to put those files, she hasn't been doing it.  You decide to talk to her about it. She seems okay with things during your chat, but later you hear through the grapevine that you "yelled at her" and that "you don't like her".  That is not at all the case. You do like her and value her as an employee and you certainly don't think you yelled at her - that was not your intent. You decide that you need to talk with her about this, as you don't want this "sliver" to grow into a finger that needs to be severed.  You set up a meeting for tomorrow morning to straighten things out.  Using the tip above about stating intentions up front, what would this follow-up conversation look like?

I could give you a list of books that help with this type of thing, and I may do that at some point. For today, I want to share a website I found that has some pretty short, simple tips for saying hard things.



There must be someone in your life that you have to say something HARD to.  Do it this week. Use the "this is my intent" tip and let us know how it goes.  Please share your TIPS for saying hard things in the comments section. Your fellow subscribers and I will appreciate it!

Jigsaw puzzle theory

As I work with various teams across several organizations, I look for trends:

  • What are these teams doing well?
  • What are these teams struggling with?
  • What are all these people saying?

I want to share a recent observation. The teams I work with have a hard time asking for help and sometimes - giving help. Yet, members of these teams get (angry is too strong of a word here) frustrated when people don't help them. It's a paradox ... individuals don't want ask for help, but they are frustrated when others don't see that they need help and just jump in. Can you relate?

I don't think that it is just an issue for members of organizational teams; I think it occurs in all types of relationships - friends, family, fellow church members. etc.  I see many people that are willing to offer help and LOVE to help others, but never want anyone else helping them. "No - no, I am just fine. I don't need anything" happens to be a lie, because they really aren't fine and they really do need something. Why is it so hard to ask for help?  If no one was out there accepting help, who would the helpers help? In families, the people that whine about no one helping them usually goes to mom or dad or a sibling and complains about the insensitive or uncaring family member.  In organizations, the people go to their boss and say "I am so overworked and she/he has time to sit around and surf the internet. Why is my schedule so full, and her's isn't"  Does that sound familiar?

As I work with these teams (or other relationships), I try to get people to take responsibility for what they want. We also try to uncover why they have a difficult time letting someone know they are drowning. It isn't a quick fix, but when people are serious about changing their interactions, it can happen.

All of tPuzzle piecehis leads to something simple I heard this past week from a guy in a Sunday School class.  He said, "What if we all just looked at each other as though we were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle?  Everyone of us has bumps or parts that stick out and everyone of us has holes. We are meant to fit together. We need to realize that my bumps may be the perfect fit for the holes that you have. It's not about any piece being better than another. It's just about realizing that we can't do this thing called life on our own - we must learn to work together to build a picture."

I'm not quite sure why that simple idea hit me as something profound, but it did. I have been thinking about myself as a puzzle piece for the last couple of days - been considering what are the parts of me that stick out and might fit perfectly with someone's needs.  What is the piece? and Who does it fit with?  I also have been thinking about where I have a hole, and how can I start to ask for help from someone to fill it.  I know plenty of people that are a perfect fit - I just need to ask.

So, what am I asking you to consider this week? I'd like you to notice how you do at asking for help. If you are great at it, what makes it easy for you?  and if you aren't, why is it hard?   I think we should also consider what puzzle piece we have that might fit beautifully with someone elses ... then, go ahead and offer your help ...

One last challenge - Where is a place in your life that you really could use help? Where are you tired or frustrated or helpless or out of ideas or alone? ASK SOMEONE TO HELP YOU WITH THAT SOMETHING THIS WEEK


Open and Honest Communication

"We must have open and honest communication." How often do you hear that phrase? I can't think of a team or an organization I have worked with that has not talked about the need for open and honest communication. It sounds great, but more times than not it doesn't work out very well. For years I have tried to help groups establish rules of engagement or group norms or ground rules to help create an environment where open and honest thrive. It isn't often that the group or individuals in the group can actually practice what they preach. WHY? The reasons why are many, but I want to offer up a simple thought I stumbled upon last week while working with a leadership team.  As the group talked about what they needed to do to be more effective, the worn out phrase came up repeatedly. I heard them trying hard to be honest with each other and they were doing a great job of saying hard things to one another. HONEST was present in the room - OPEN was not.

I had an aha moment. OPEN and HONEST are like two sides of a single coin; they cannot be separated and yet we do it all the time. People are eager to be HONEST, but they are not eager to be OPEN  to the effect that HONESTY has. They are not OPEN to what may come back at them. They are not OPEN to hearing what the other person has to say in response. They are not OPEN to another perspective.  They are HONEST and CLOSED.

I decided to share this thought with the team and it clicked for them. They agreed that while it was difficult to be honest with other people at times, it wasn't the honest part that caused the problems - it was the closed ears/mind/heart that left them feeling badly about the conversation.

Maybe you have already figured this out on your own.  If not,  I am challenging you to ponder this concept - notice when you are honest with someone and then close yourself to the impact of being honest.  You can have one without the other, but then don't be surprised when communication does not improve. My guess is that we could all work on being a bit more OPEN.  I, for one, am resolving to be more OPEN in 2013!