What you can do is not always what people want from you. Just clearing this confusion could bring an immense relief to your day to day life. You don’t have to immediately provide what they’re asking, of course.
Making yourself useful is just a matter of asking around: what do you need from me? If you can provide, just do it. If you don’t, then you’re at least clear about something. As simple as it sounds, this approach is more than often ignored.
We do live a large part of our lives by assumptions. The problem arise when these assumptions are not clicking anymore. And, before we know it, we’re on a different context, with different rules.
Ask around. Understand what others want from you before starting to give.
How Can I Help You Today?
This is a question that can enlighten your entire life, properly used.
Unfortunately, most of our time we function by assumption. We assume that reality works in a certain way, only because it used to work like this for a while. We think we already know what people want from us, only because we presented some set of skills. Or, even less than a set of skills, some socially accepted labels. I’m a designer. I’m a trainer. I’m a translator.
This label may be useful in lowering the confusion, in giving some anchors, some common ground to conversation, but it’s almost never what people really want from us. The fact that we know to do something, is irrelevant, as long as we don’t connect it to what the other end of the conversation is expecting from us.
I know it sounds obvious, when you read it. But how many times did you really followed up? How many times you really asked around about what other people want from you?
Because even if you manage to deliver constantly a certain type of results, they are never the same. Reality changes. The context changes. Maybe you’re used to deliver, let’s say, inspiration to other people. You know how to make them enthusiastic. That’s what people usually expect from you. But maybe today is different. Maybe today they are already inspired and they need some structure. Maybe they need some clear steps, lined down in a bulleted list, and that’s all. They don’t need inspiration anymore.
And if you keep delivering inspiration, you’re gonna waste both your and their time.
This question will also clear the confusion and I know it worked great for me many times. Maybe people have expectations from you. Maybe they look up to you and see you like the ultimate solution for their needs. And when you asked them what do they want from you, they’ll tell: “save me”. That’s a very good moment to practice your “No”s. That’s where the confusion must end, at the beginning of the conversation. I’ve been in this type of misunderstanding many times, on both positions (asking to be “saved” and being asked to “save”).
This question, properly used, is not only a fantastic social lubricator, allowing you to give value exactly to whom it needs and exactly how you can deliver it; but it’s also fundamental in one on one relationships. In intimate relationships. That’s where the “skin”, the exposed part of ourselves is usually very tender and easy to get hurt. Here is fundamental to learn, to understand very clearly what the other one needs from us.
Sometimes, the other one doesn’t know what he or she wants. If you ask around, their answer will be: “I don’t know what I want. I just want to be happy.” And the “savior” trap opens: you assume that you can make the other one happy. And voila, you begin to act like a “savior”, like the “messenger of happiness”.
Which is a big, shiny and smelly pile of bullshit (pardon my French). You can’t make anybody else happy because you can’t control anyone, except you (and that to a very limited extent, too).
So, now, since you are already here, at my blog:
How can I help you today? Leave your answer in comments.
I’m really curious.