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  • James Lord

Some have answers to everything, but solutions to nothing

Have you ever met someone who has the answers for everything but solutions for nothing? You know, those in meetings or social gatherings who like to contribute and hear themselves speak but add absolutely no value to the conversation. At work, it might sound something like, “Monday was a holiday, that’s why our clients had to wait on hold for so long!” Or if you’re at a family gathering, it’s the person who says, “It’s all of this rain we’ve been having, that’s why your basement is so damp and musty.” Conversely, others seem to be masterful during the meetings or conversations. They listen intently and seem to only speak in ways that add value to the dialogue.

When Captain Obvious arrives, I generally look for the nearest exit.

Of course, we’re all human, and we each may find ourselves sharing some very obvious statements from time to time. My advice, and what I try to do, is to read the room. Listen to the conversation and watch the body language of those around you. If you sense that something you said was incredibly obvious, don’t fall into the trap of more is better. Pause, and then let others contribute while you think of something more valuable to say that will enhance the conversation.

In business, as in our own personal lives, we often prefer when people come to the table with ideas and solutions, not obvious statements.

Using the example above, instead of saying, “It’s all of this rain we’ve been having, that’s why your basement is so damp and musty” you might say “My basement was musty until I bought a new dehumidifier from the local appliance store. I can give you their number if you’re interested in calling them.”

Using this approach whereby you’re offering a solution is a value add. Even if your solution is not accepted or adopted, it shows you’re actively listening and trying to be helpful rather than playing the role of Captain Obvious.

What is great about this approach is that it’s easy to practice at home or in safe conversations with friends or family, so you can then be better in the office. Remember, don’t just highlight the problem. Bring forward some ideas or solutions. Add value.

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