A few weeks ago, I posted about the book Strengthsfinder 2.0, and I listed my five strengths. The accompanying book Strengths Based Leadership breaks all the strengths into categories - executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. One of my strengths was influencing - maximizer, my strongest, which basically means I love to find my own strengths and the strengths of others and maximize them. Another was in relationship building - individualization, which means I see people distinctly and not as a stereotype. The other three fell into strategic thinking - strategic (seeing solutions), context (learning from the past), and futuristic (looking to the future). Basically what that says to me is that I look at people individually, and at problems individually, I find the people who can best meet it given their skillset, and I organize a group to create a solution based on past experience and future desired outcomes. Basically, I solve the problem.
I have always been a problem solver. I loved solving logic problems, crossword puzzles, and math quizzes since I was little. When it came to people, I was the friend who people came to for tutoring, help with relationship troubles, or suggestions of how to deal with a teacher they were not seeing eye to eye with. I have diffused countless squabbles between peers just because I saw a way to find peace, or at least resolution. The biggest problem with being a lifetime problem solver: solving the problem of wanting to solve the problem.
I really have been working at being a better listener. I can be a great listener, and when I choose to use that ability, some people even think it's one of my greatest abilities. I think it is because I have really worked on it in my life, not because it necessarily comes natural to me. Lately, though, I find myself overtalking people again far too much. I want to "solve the problem" in what they're saying - even if they're not presenting one. I also tend to over-personalize: I have an amazing ability to make almost any story about me. I hate that I do it, sometimes even as I do it. Yet I see the connections between other people's stories and my own so readily, it's hard not to want to say, "Oh, this is how I dealt with that problem." Again, I do it even when they're clearly not asking how to solve it. It's especially annoying when they're not even talking about a present problem, but something from years back.
So I am writing this post as my personal pledge: I am going to do my best to stop overtalking, stop making the story about me, and stop solving problems without being asked. If I come close to that goal, I'm sure I will learn from the exercise. Who knows I might even learn to solve another problem.