Why is it we’re so quick to give others advice but have more trouble figuring out what to do ourselves when faced with a sticky situation? I’ve done it myself so many times. Please tell me you have, too. A friend, a colleague, a client… someone will describe their dilemma or where they feel stuck. It is not unusual for me to have almost a knee-jerk reaction that starts off, “Well, if I were in your position, I would…” I’m pleased to say that *most* of the time, I avoid saying that to a client. But I have an admittedly lower success rate when it comes to friends or colleagues.
Part of this is that I’m bossy. And opinionated. Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows this to be (embarrassingly) true. But I’ve also heard much quieter, less imposing people say similar things. But only once they are out of earshot of the person presenting their dilemma. Saying something so direct would be way too confrontational and would feel rude. But my point is that they also can see what the other person can’t. Why?
We’re too close to our own dilemmas to see them clearly. Too far in the weeds, too emotionally close, pick your metaphor. But this is not news. I think most of us already know this to be true, which is why we so often find someone to talk to in order to find our way out. And that’s fine. But it’s not the only way. Want another idea?
Try asking yourself the question, “If you were to give a colleague advice about this, what would you tell them?” Seems silly, doesn’t it? I agree. But I also find it to be useful sometimes. It’s not a panacea (is anything?) but it can open up your brain to another perspective.
When we’re stuck, we need to extract ourselves from the situation. That’s the only way to look at it from multiple angles, gain some objectivity, and hopefully, some clarity. Asking that question about how you’d guide someone else to a solution can help with that process. That question very well may lead you to other questions, which may lead to other well-known tools that help further.
Being close to a situation doesn’t have to mean being helpless to find the solution. Sometimes we just need a little help from our friends, even if that help comes from our own minds.