Not speaking the obvious (or learning to trust others)

Have you ever been going through something tough or doing something not-as-well-as-you-could-be only to have a friend suggest something painfully obvious that you should do?

If a sketch artist isn’t getting the depth of his portraits quite right while he works out the details of his new pencil set, he doesn’t want a friend standing over his shoulder pointing out that he should be shading deeper shadows. He knows that. He just hasn’t done it, but he’s trying to figure it out.

Or maybe you work in an office and you’re not quite as productive as you want to be. Having a friendly co-worker telling you that you just need to focus more probably does more to damage your ability to focus on work because it’s maddening to hear the obvious thing you know you should be doing, but are currently struggling with being suggested by somebody who is not in the process of battling the situation you’re in.

All of this to say, it is exceedingly tempting to tell those around us the plain and obvious things that we’re sure would make things better for them, but I’ve found that it can be far more valuable and effective to trust that they can figure it out.

If they can’t figure it out, let them ask for help or wait until the situation breaks them enough that your suggestion will have value.

Most of all, empathize with the person struggling. An “obviously-you-should-do-it-this-way” kind of verbal affront is a big turn off and usually betrays the fact that you don’t quite understand what the person is struggling with.

Empathy. It’s a key.