The propensity to give advice is universal. But don't worry; the propensity to ignore it is also universal.
In Chapter 18 you practiced an exercise where you had to react to a friend's conversation without talking back -- just by listening. Now let's bring home another point about how to practice attentive listening.
Many years ago, my wife and I were at home having dinner. She obviously had faced a pretty heavy day at the office and was uptight about the day's events. She began to tell me about the ins-and-outs of a problem she was having with a member of her staff. She began quite calmly but soon developed a high head of steam. As she spoke, her anger seemed to feed on itself and she became more and more incensed.
Unfortunately, I wasn't really watching or listening to her. My brain was busy with the answer to her problem that had just popped into my head and, unfortunately, straight out of my mouth. "Look, if you had given her the opportunity to correct her mistake, maybe..."
She interrupted me, "What are you talking about? Are you saying it was my fault?"
"Well, no, I was only..." That was as far as I got.
"Who asked you?" she yelled. "Who asked you? All I wanted you to do was to listen and nod your head a couple of times."
"But I only wanted to help."
"You can help by keeping your opinions to yourself and listening," she said. "I don't want any advice when I'm so angry. Nobody wants advice when they're that angry!"
She was right -- nobody does!
The moral of this story is that no matter how good you think you've become in displaying charming behavior, being a patient listener is the glue that holds all your skills together. Your attentive silence at the appropriate time demonstrates your interest, patience, and caring.
The next time someone comes to you with a problem or difficult choice, turn it around and ask, "What do you think you should do?" And then listen patiently without interrupting.
If a woman asks a man for his opinion about what to wear, she has usually made up her own mind already and is just seeking confirmation. You have a 50 percent chance of being wrong.
Instead, you ask her, "Which outfit do you think looks the best?" Whatever her answer, you agree and say, "That's the one I was going to choose." You'll sound like a genius, and charming as well.