What a discovery! When most people ask for my advice, they really want me to just stay quiet and listen.

When friends, family members and associates approach me, I assume they do so to tap into my experience and wisdom. I listen to their predicaments, figuring they want my point of view. The conversation will be going along just fine until I decide it’s time for me to speak. Suddenly, their inquisitive faces and animated body language disappear as I begin to talk. What happened to our productive conversation?

Recently, my son, Jeff, phoned me with a question about parenting. He was concerned about his son, my grandson’s, lack of engagement in homework. I tried to listen to Jeff as he described a recent teacher’s conference and the subsequent rules he planned to enforce, but I couldn’t help thinking about the advice I was eager to offer.

Rather than listening to Jeff’s whole story, I invested my time in shaping the delivery of my sage message. Then, when Jeff paused for a breath, I jumped in. But as I began to unfold the instructive and inspiring story of my childhood, I realized Jeff was no longer listening. In fact, I could hear him clicking through the channels on his TV.

There are a remarkable number of times when better communication would have been achieved by the mere nodding of my head or brief responses such as “yes” or “how interesting.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are also times when robust exchanges are in order and, rarer times, when personal stories may serve a purpose.

However, so often we all are just looking for a little affirmation, an iota of appreciation and understanding.

So my tip to myself is this: “Just stay quiet and listen.”