Tell Me About It – I’m Actually Not Listening Though

Neil ButlerUntypical Thoughts

Closely related to the previous “really busy”, is the “tell me about it” movement.

Colleague:  How are you?
You:  Really busy
Colleague:  Tell me about it

So, two things fall out of this.

Firstly, “tell me about it” is seemingly loosely translated to “you think you’re busy … wait till I tell you how busy I am”. It seems that being “really busy” is now a competition. If you say that you are really busy, why should your colleague try and out do you? Is it a contest to see who is busier and, if so, what is the prize? A sense of achievement that you are busier than them? I’m not exactly sure why this is the way many conversations are conducted.

The other puzzling aspect of this response is taking the invitation literally. Next time someone says “tell me about it”, go ahead and tell them about it. In my experience people who say “tell me about it” don’t actually want you to do anything of the sort. If anything, they want you to STOP telling them about it and start listening to the list of things they have on their plate.

It is a most peculiar response in this context. If I say to someone that I have had a really bad day or that I am really tired, if they say “tell me about it”, I’m taking that as an invitation not a contest.

Next time someone tells you how they are feeling – even if it is “really busy” – resist the temptation to make it a contest. If you have the time ask them to tell you about it … no really, to tell you about it. Your listening and support might be just what they need.

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