I used to have long conversations, especially by office standards, with a woman who worked in my office.
We always had an easy chemistry, and I enjoyed talking to her not just because she was smart, friendly and funny, but because she had a way of making me think about things in a way I hadn’t considered.
This happened even when we agreed on things, which we did more often than not. The way we used to describe it was that we may have taken different roads, but we almost always wound up in the same place.
It was during one of those chats — and I don’t even remember the context — where she said that when you’re trying to help someone, one of the worst things you can do is say that it’s “easy.”
At first reaction, it feels like that can’t possibly be right. After all, you’re probably dealing with someone who’s struggling, and telling them it’s easy is meant to be encouragement, a way of saying “You got this.”
I’ve done it countless times, but on second thought, if they’re struggling, do they really want to hear that something is “easy”? After all, it’s probably not easy for them. That’s why they’re struggling.
Let me give you an example.
I’m in a networking group that meets weekly. There are usually a few new members every week, and they’re encouraged to come up front and speak about themselves for a minute — who they are, what they’re looking to do, stuff like that.
It’s a friendly audience, but there are people who have to be talked into it, because they’re terrified of public speaking.
Yet I find public speaking easy.
That doesn’t mean I don’t find it a challenge, or that I don’t get nervous, because I do. But I studied public speaking, have done a decent amount of it and don’t fear standing in front of a group of people, even strangers, and talking.
However, those same people who would rather do anything but speak in public have no problem mingling, chatting, networking with other people in the group. It’s easy for them.
Meanwhile, I’m looking for a place to hide. Even though I can talk to people I don’t know in other circumstances — it was part of my job for close to 20 years, and I did just fine — for some reason, networking makes me uncomfortable.
And no amount of telling me it’s “easy” is going to change that, even if you say it’s as easy as speaking in public.