The path of least assistance.

Updated: Mar 9


It was so frustrating - why couldn’t they have just told me this in the first place?

Now we needed another trip just to get a letter with our name and address printed on it.

I was helping my daughter buy her first Apple MacBook (a proud milestone in every parents journey) and stopped to ask at the information desk what we needed for a credit application.

“Just two forms of ID - one with a photo.” they said, moving promptly back to their text conversation - so we made a trip back home for that second ID, only to find on our return that we still needed something else as well.

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience where we’ve asked a question, had it answered only to realise that we need to go back for more obvious information. Perhaps we’ve asked a colleague and got an answer - but not the whole answer.

"The path of least assistance" - the tendency for people to give just enough information so that I will go away.

I wonder if this is because of the belief that our time is precious, or my time is precious - you are interrupting my time, therefore I will tell you the minimum (rather than what you need to know) in order to protect my time.

Let’s be honest, haven’t we all done this at one time or another?

A complete flipstart to this would be to adopt the view that instead of my time its ‘your’ time that is precious, and now because I value your time, I am going to tell you what I think you will need to know in order to be most effective - not just what you asked.

At first it might seem like this is going to take up even more of your time - and for what reward?

Believe it or not being helpful in this way actually develops us. Here’s a couple to get you started.

1. The bigger picture.

Trying to understand the reason why a question is being asked and putting ourselves into the shoes of another is a great way to develop our own skills of perspective.

The more perspectives we have the better we can understand and see the bigger picture. Seeing more of the picture gives opportunity for solving problems, and adding value and generally being seen as helpful.

2. EQ

Seeing another’s view is a critical step in developing our skills of sympathy, empathy and compassion. The ability to notice subtle verbal and non-verbal cues that people give can provide insight and understanding into what people really need or are asking, and builds our EQ and our ability to get on with others.

There's many more - what's some of the other benefits you can see?


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