Anne was on the phone with Miranda when I stepped into her office. Signalling me to take a seat, Anne continued her conversation.
“Miranda, may I put you on speaker? Edna has joined us.” Miranda must have said yes as her voice came through the speaker as she continued what seemed like a rant to me.
“Are you open to some feedback about this issue?” Anne asked.
Miranda did not skip a beat, “No! I know exactly what you are going to say. You are going to tell me to arrange a face-to-face meeting with my client and find a solution that works for both of us. You think I need to give him the benefit of the doubt or assume positive intention before jumping to the conclusion that he means to undermine me.”
“This is the third time we have had this conversation,” said Anne gently. “Each time I have asked whether you wanted feedback from me, and each time you have said no insisting that you already knew what I would say. Now, I am not willing to listen to this story again.”
There was a long pause, then Miranda said, “OK. Next time I will call someone else.” And she hung up.
Anne looked at me, raised an eyebrow and asked, “What would you have said to Miranda?”
“I am sure I have no idea; would you please explain what happened?” I replied.
“As you heard me say, this was the third time I had listened to the same rant about Miranda’s client. Three times I asked for her permission to provide some feedback. Three times she said, “No” claiming that she knew what I would say.
“She didn’t act to solve the problem based on what she thought I would suggest, she just came back to me with the same rant.
“You already know that I operate on the “three strikes and you are out,” principle. So I listened three times and now Miranda is “out.”
“What will you do if she comes back again?” I asked.
If Miranda brings me the same conversation again, I will remind her that she had three opportunities to receive some guidance and three times she refused so now, I am unwilling to invest my time in listening. My listening isn’t serving her.
“If she is open to receiving feedback and says so before launching in, I would be willing to restart the clock. I doubt that she will though as you heard the end of the conversation.
“I no longer give unsolicited feedback or suggestions. I ask permission first; if the other person says, “Yes” then we have a contract – they have agreed to receive, and I will share my perspective and coach them. By giving their permission, they have invited me to speak.
“A few people, like Miranda, say “no” and I accept that. But I am only willing to listen three times.”
I don’t ask before offering advice – I do listen first and then I speak. Other owls and owlets do not necessarily give permission and they too will get three opportunities.
Are you open to feedback?