- Are you becoming a "counselor" to a friend or coworker who has problems bigger than you feel qualified to handled?
- Do you feel drained or depressed after talking with this coworker or friend?
- Are you really helping the person who seems to be going in circles--or simply delaying their getting to the real source and resolution for the problem?
Some people have been having the same conversations for a lifetime. They tell you what a terrible job they have. They give you a weekly run-down on their love affair that's in jeopardy. They ask for -- but never take -- advice on a new business venture.
Of course, friendship means that you lend an ear and offer a soft shoulder to someone with a problem. But going in circles through the same conversation week after week, month after month helps no one. In fact, such conversations can delay real action and resolutions for the person needing help.
So if such conversations take valuable time and sap your emotional energy, consider a different way to help rather than going in circles. For example:
- Try to focus these repetitive, rambling speakers by asking questions: "So what do you think the next step should be?" "So what specifically do you want me to do at this point?" So, "What do you plan to do now?" "So how have things/your plans/the relationship changed? Is this something different from what we've discussed before?"
If necessary, repeat the above steps. Again. And again.
I tend to agree with humorist Mark Twain about the hopelessness of the foregoing conversations: "Few sinners have been saved after the first twenty minutes of a sermon." No matter what the sermon and the situation.