Question with Those Fries? (Issue 610)

In which we are reminded…once again… to ask questions EVEN WHEN WE’RE SURE  we have a good idea.

We were finishing up our lunch, sandwiches and French fries, and it happened in an instant, so quickly that I gasped, hearing my own words.

A friend, fellow business owner, said, “After all we’ve been through in the last four  years, working through the recession… now to have the blunt-instrument service cut backs budget cuts caused by our President and Congress … I am just feeling very tired, and I’m not sure what I’ll do. I still love the work… and I’m just…really…tired.”

And I, the trusty friend responded, “Well, I know the feeling, and  I have some friends who said the same thing. Their solution was to wind down for 30 days – work in the morning, bike and hike and hang out in the mountains in the afternoons. They were amazed how different life looked after 30 days. Why don’t YOU do that?”

He looked at me, kinda sideways, out of the corner of his eyes, for a long moment…

In that instant, I realized I’d made at least two mistakes. First, in my effort to be helpful and soothing, I’d pitched a solution without really understanding the issues.  I’d pitched based on MY experience and my FRIENDS’  experiences that seemed to match up pretty well. I had taken a short cut.

I should have teased out more with a question (“How long have you felt this way?) or a request (something like “Yeah?” or “Go on” or “Say more”).  That was the first mistake.

The second mistake was using the worn out “feel, felt, found” chestnut – “I know how you feel, others have felt the same way, and they’ve found that…”).

My take on his sideways look was, “Nick, you have no idea how I feel …or how utterly ridiculous, beyond my reach, out of the question, that suggestion is.”

After the long moment, he smiled, graciously, and said, “Sounds like that worked well for them, and  I can’t do that at this point.”

I passed him the ketchup for his few remaining French Fries.

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