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Learn to Get Things Done

I have a group of friends that I have dinner with every Sunday. One of them owns a chocolate factory / cafe called Dandelion Chocolate, and another owns Three Babes Bakeshop (side note: best chocolate and pies ever, respectively). Once in a while the conversations swings to business, and the rest of us get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to run a brick and mortar.

Last night they were talking about hiring more people, because both of their workloads have increased during the holiday season. The one skill they specifically sought: the ability to actually get things done.

People email me once in a while for advice, which I like to give if I haven't overloaded myself with other work. A good portion of those emails make it clear that the person has no idea how to just get things done. They ask questions whose answers would be immediately obvious upon any amount of independent investigation.

It's funny to me that in this age of computers, people have become computers themselves. Most are able to follow instructions, but as soon as anything even slightly out of the ordinary comes up, the person freezes and waits further instructions. And if there are no instructions, nothing happens at all.

The Experience the Other Person Wants to Have

I know that I'm more self centered than I should be. It's something I work on, not by instructing myself to be less self centered, which is too foggy a command to actually obey, but through specifically defined efforts. One of the more useful ones I've come up with is to stop and think about what experience the other person wants to have.

Maybe for everyone besides me this is an obvious social skill that happens automatically. I've found for me, though, that usually I'm just on autopilot when interacting with others. If anything I think about the experience that I want to have.

Let's say I'm arguing with a friend about something trivial, maybe the best method to book a plane ticket. He has his way, I have mine. If I'm on autopilot, my goal is probably to win the argument. Sounds petty, but I think it's true for a lot of us. If we're in an argument, we try to win. If I think about the experience my friend wants to have, though, that description probably doesn't include losing an argument to me. In fact, it probably doesn't include having an argument at all.

So why is he engaging in an argument that he doesn't want to have? Maybe he figured out a cool trick for booking flights and wants to share it with me, but my pride is preventing me from listening. Maybe he sees me as an authority on travel and wants me to respect his own abilities in that area. Maybe other topics I've been bringing up have been boring and he'd rather be an active participant in an argument than a passive listener of something boring.

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