Why People Tell Me Things

I’m all ears — and part priest, counselor, and bartender

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People tell me things.

Things they probably shouldn’t.

But they feel compelled to do so anyway.

And these people are not only those I’ve known for years, but quite often, have been business and personal acquaintances I’ve known only a short time. Or sometimes, just met on a plane or at a conference.

It’s been this way with me for as long as I can remember and delights my family members when they see it occurring. Again.

So why does this keep happening? I’ve come up with a few reasons:

A Need to Connect.

I believe that people are intrinsically wired to want to connect with others. One way to do this is to share something about yourself or your life, often in hopes that someone will do the same with you. When we know each other’s secrets or even something as seemingly mundane as someone’s shopping list, it gives us insight into that person’s life and what they’re dealing with at the time. And this insight allows us to form a connection.

Been There, Done That (Hated It).

I’ve been approached by numerous industry colleagues who want to vent to me because they know I’ve been in a similar (yucky) spot. A kind of “been there, done that” (and in some cases, “hated it!”) spot. I get it, and I’m happy to oblige.

Sharing your woes with someone more experienced helps you through them. Someone who’s been around long enough that the dilemma you’re going through is probably something they’ve been through already, and luckily found their way out of successfully. For many, I’m that someone.

Validation/Gut Check.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing you’re not crazy. I’ve had people approach me with “I’m just doing a gut check here: does this seem right/fair/insane?” and I know what they’re really seeking are validation and camaraderie. “Yes, your board sounds nuts!” or “No, that’s completely messed up!” have been some of my previous responses.

A Non-Judgmental Place to Confess.

Sometimes you need to talk someone completely outside of the action. When you’re dealing with something that gets you all fired up (angry, sad, guilt-ridden, disappointed) it helps to confide in an impartial, third party whose perspective isn’t clouded with emotion. Almost like a confessional. (But without the judgment.)

I’ve been seated next to strangers on a plane, and by the end of our journey, I know how they feel about everything from their kid’s occasional pot use to their ex-wife’s smarmy new hubby, to their beloved dog’s surgery. And they always feel better after sharing.

Seeking Advice.

Ah, helping answer the question of “What should I do?” is a place I find myself frequently. In most cases, I try not to tell them what to do, but instead, help coax out of them what they think they should do, and then support them in forming an action plan to make it happen.

Trust.

This is a biggie. I’m really hoping that this is the overarching reason that people confide in me. I’d like to think that all the other reasons are merely part of this bigger piece of the pie. I’ve had folks say to me, “I know we haven’t worked together very closely, but I feel like I can trust you,” and then proceed to share with me highly sensitive information. Or put their confidence in me when they say, “I know I can trust you to keep this between us.”

To me, this is a compliment of the highest order and something I take very seriously. Trust is important, in life and business, because we really only want to be around people we trust. And when we do feel that confidence, we know that the person on the other end of our discussion will make it — and us — a priority by listening attentively and thoroughly engaging with us.

I guess that makes me part priest, part counselor, and part bartender. And that suits me just fine. I’m honored to play those roles for those who trust me enough to confide in me, to share a part of themselves and their lives.

So, what’ll ya have? I’m listening.

© Amy Blaschka, 2017

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Amy (that’s me on the left) is the president of rbp consulting, a consultancy specializing in helping organizations in transition. When she’s not attentively listening to things people tell her, she’s also a badass writer, and loves connecting people and organizations one word at a time. Connect with Amy at rbpconsulting.org or on Twitter.

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