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We frequently find ourselves listening to stories from our friends about things that happen in their lives. They might tell us about a coworker who joined the company at the same time, but somehow thinks they are “better than us” and act like they always have the right answer. They let us know about their friend showing up 30 minutes late for dinner and didn’t apologize profusely enough. Their mother is always too demanding on their time and won’t stop nagging them about a box of their stuff.

Whenever these stories come up, I think about asking “A or B”.

Do you want me to

  • “A” – agree with you and show support in this frustrating issue, or do you want me to
  • “B” – help you be the better person you are aspiring to be.

If they really consider it, perhaps they just want someone to say that everything is going to be okay. But maybe they want someone to push them to be more compassionate, more considerate, less judgemental… a better version of themselves.

Maybe the coworker is incredibly insecure about their position and has a lot of pressure on them to make more money from a spouse, or achieve something because of an over-achieving brother who they are doing everything they can to live up to.

Maybe the friend was late because they were on the phone to another friend who is struggling with depression and they can’t tell you about it.

And maybe the mother just wants to see them, and the box is an excuse to make a connection.

We rarely correctly guess what is going on inside other people’s minds. The A or B question is a useful one for us to understand what a person is looking for when telling us about their lives.

Try it.

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