Updated: Jan 19, 2021
How may I help you?
In a world where we’re constantly told to bring value to people, this is a question I’ve heard often when meeting someone for the first time. On the surface, the question is fine. It sounds…well…helpful. And it’s made with good intent and to find a way to bring value. But I see an opportunity to improve.
You see, when this question is asked, it puts the ownership on the person being asked the question to come up with ways for you to be helpful. And they might never give you an answer. At a first meeting, they might not even know quite yet how you actually can help.
Change the approach by suggesting ways that you could be helpful.
Do so by asking other questions first. What’s important to the person? What do they value? What challenges they are facing? What are they excited about? Where is their focus? The list goes on, which provides the insight you need to make recommendations.
If I'm asking those questions, I also know my experience the best. This allows me to offer suggestions on how I can be helpful in a way that aligns with the person's values, challenges, etc. Then, based on what sticks or doesn’t, I can still follow up with “are there other ways you think I could be helpful to you?”
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.