Listen, Don't Tell

Posted on November 21, 2007

Sometimes it's best not to give orders, suggests Elizabeth L. George (bio).


I think it's a very fine balance between trusting yourself and your own expertise and really listening to other people's opinions. I think when I was pretty novice I had a tendency not to listen to other people as much and maybe it was an insecurity on my own part that I felt like, "No, it has to be this way ,and if you're not doing it this way, it's going to fall apart."

And now I try to do a little more of, "Okay, tell me what your thoughts are." And then I try to listen for what's going to work about that, and then I try to say, "Oh wow, this is a really great idea. This is going to work about that, but let's look at this piece. Let's practically kind of figure out if that's gonna work or not." And almost get them to figure it out for themselves as opposed to saying, "This is what you have to do."

But there are also those times when you really need to say, "This is what you have to do," or "You can't do that," or "This isn't going to work for me." So I think a balance of being polite and courteous and direct when you need to at the same time. And I think managers so often, I don't know if it's because people are busy or they feel like they deserve a certain amount of respect or they don't give it a lot of thought, I don't know what goes into that, but tend to more tell people what to do.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2007 International Conference on Bipolar Disorder in Pittsburgh, PA.


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