Need Help? Start Listening.

You may or may not know this, but by day I am a commercial property manager, in a nutshell this means I collect rent, schedule maintenance, and listen to complaints. It is without fail that every working day I get the same type of call, someone has a problem and they need my help. This is not problem at all, in fact tjis is what I get paid to do, the problem is when the person calling won’t stop talking.

For example, it was noon one day and I received a call from a tenant (let’s call him Steve) telling me that he never received a copy of his lease, as I promised to send him. I knew I had mailed it out, but patiently waited for Steve to finish the explanation of why I had lied to him. When Steve finished I explained that I had mailed it and it must have been lost. I told Steve I would not be able to send another copy until the next business day, but in the mean time I could just email him a PDF copy so that he could look for what he wanted to.

At some point between when Steve stopped talking and before I started talking, Steve stopped listening. When I was done telling him the above he reiterated that he never got a copy, a copy that he really needed, despite the fact that I told him I would send him a copy. At this point Steve and I are both frustrated. Steve wants his copy 3-months ago and is pissed he doesn’t have it now. I am frustrated that the mail is making me look like a liar and that Steve is not listening to what I am saying. This banter between Steve and I ensues for another 5 minutes.

I finally lose my cool and forcefully tell Steve his options, get an emailed copy now and a hard copy in a couple of days, or wait for the hard copy to come in a couple of days. Simple right? Then Steve tells me that the PDF is 29 pages and will take up way too much file space, not to mention that he does not want to pay to print out 29 pages. I ignore for the moment that he is basically telling me that he is too cheap to print it out and would rather I do so while paying for the postage, and tell him that he can view a PDF on the screen for free. 1

At the end of the conversation I get Steve’s email address and email him the lease and mail him the hard copy. The kicker: Steve has a Gmail address, meaning he really doesn’t have to worry about file storage.

Time to Listen

This type of conversation happens to me everyday. I listen to peoples problems and they don’t listen to the solutions that I offer. Had Steve listened to what I said the first time around we could have been off the phone with a satisfactory result in less than 5 minutes. Instead Steve took the approach that many before him had, he beat his chest to let me know who was in charge.

The thing that Steve and so many other people don’t realize is if you are asking someone else for help, then it is because you need their help not the other way around. In fact Steve never asked for my help, he demanded it and when I started to help he ignored it.

Take this Advice

No matter your company size, your position, your age, your sex, your race – if you are asking someone for help you better be prepared to listen to them when they offer it. Once you stop listening, people will stop wanting to help you – when that happens you mine as well be beating your chest in the mirror.

  1. Seriously I had to tell him this.
Originally posted for members on: September 13, 2010
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