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What do you need me to do?

As a man, one of the most common things I have been criticized for is applying “Mr Fix It” principles to every situation where people have downloaded their challenges in my presence.

My standard response to the criticism would have been – ‘Why not just tell me upfront what you expect from me, especially if you just want me to listen?’.  How many times must I make the same mistake before I learn anything new?

When people need to dump, download, vent, share and reach out the last thing possibly on their preparation checklist, is preparing their audience for what is expected from them.

Managing the expectations they have from the person, or people, chosen to do the hearing is not something they are able to do.

What I need from you is …

People in a dire need of a sounding board are not in the frame of mind to tell their audience up-front what they expect them to do with this information – ‘I need you to simply listen, I need you to offer advice, I need you to take charge, I need you to challenge me, I need you to pretend to be someone else, I need you to allow me the simple opportunity of hearing myself’.

One thing I could try to ask, after the listening, is – Is there anything you need from me?

My “Mr Fix It” approach has been the least common requirement.  On average, the ‘just listen’ approach has been the greatest requirement.  Remembering this average will also help me to avoid the likelihood of getting it wrong going forward.

What I want others to know:
  • I am here for you.  When someone knows this, half the job is done.
  • I get you.  Another large part of the supportive job – I have built up, over time, evidence of understanding where you are coming from.
  • I will give you what you want and not what I think you want – if it is simply an ear you need, that’s what you’ll get.
  • I will know when you need more from me – I will develop that intuitive ability and move away from my default logical ability to “know” when you need more from a supportive structure than what you may realise and acknowledge.
  • I will keep an eye on you.
  • I will learn to offer my support unconditionally – if you turn it down, I will not take offense.
  • I will get to know your support structures and might just call on someone else to support you if I am not going to be up to it.

A client of mine once said, that companies should apply for overdraft facilities when they do not need them.  As a man, I should talk about how my friends and family would like me to support them when they don’t need to be supported.  This way I’ll equip myself to know best how to support those closest to me when they do need it.

Giving someone space, time out, the safety to vent, an ear, a cup of tea, the chance to sleep, all while I myself might be a bit thrown, is the key.

If I stress about you I’m not in the best space to support you.  Readying myself through proactive conversations will set me up to deal with the times when my presence of mind and my intuitive facilities are really needed.

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

The 2017 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is about many things. One is learning how to support people.  I can offer my support and I can show myself as someone who is able to support.  I must also develop the ability to ask for support and the openness to accept support when I need it.


By Louis Gerke

Development FacilitatorThe Ripple Effect

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