Tell me more

19th February 2013

One of my friends recently asked my advice. He said "my wife and I argue a lot, especially when she’s had a bad day at work. We both hate it, but I don’t know how to stop it".

I asked him for examples. He said: 

Her: I had a bad day at work. I argued with my boss about X

Him: Why don’t you go in early tomorrow, apologise for the misunderstanding and ask how you can help him with X?

Her: Why are you telling me what to do?

Him: I’m not. I’m helping.

Her: No you’re not. You’re not listening…

(I imagine this conversation goes on in lots of houses!)

I told him it sounded like he was offering solutions, which she didn’t want. He replied "she asked for my help". I said "no, she wanted you to listen to her. Next time, ask her more questions about it, so she can talk it through. A good phrase to use can be ‘tell me more’ "

Sure enough, he had an opportunity to use this advice very shortly afterwards. This is how he later told me the conversation went: 

Her: I had another bad day at work.

Him: I am sorry to hear that. What happened – tell me more.

Her: Well, I had a problem with X, which resulted in Y.

Him: Really? What happened?

Her: [more detail]

Him: That doesn’t sound very nice. How do you feel about it now?

Her: [more detail].

 Afterwards, she said he’d been ‘much more helpful than he usually is’. He told me that he felt he hadn’t contributed much, because he hadn’t provided a solution. I helped him see that that wasn’t the case.

Sometimes people tell you things because they want your advice; sometimes they just want to talk. Saying "tell me more" (or similar) means you give them what they want. If they want to talk, they will. If not, they’ll often reply with "well there’s not much more to tell. What would you advise?"

Useful advice for you to use this evening? Useful advice for you to tell somebody else to use?! 

Action point

Next time somebody tells you they’re stressed about something, ask for more information first. (After all, doctors diagnose before they prescribe). A good rule of thumb: when they’re stressed, make sure they talk more than you do. 

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