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Chapter 12. Listening to Influence > Developing the Art of Helping with Silence

4.. Developing the Art of Helping with Silence

Many people believe that just listening without injecting comments or advice seems too passive or compliant. It is a curious and unfortunate aspect of our culture that we tend to think that any action is better than no action, and that just listening or absorbing means you’re a wimp, a procrastinator, or a do-nothing.

Jack Gibb, an early figure of humanistic psychology, often says “help isn’t always helpful.” What he means is that, even with the best intentions, we are often too directive. We tell others what they should or shouldn’t do or what worked for us. While we feel helpful, we may not help others to arrive at the best solution for them. Neither do we empower them to stand on their own two feet and come up with their own solutions. Advice and information are usually seen rightly as attempts to change a person. They serve as barriers to self-expression. Ultimately the advice is seldom taken and the information is discarded.


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