I read a question someone posed on social media. It was simple, but it revealed a lot.
Thinking about getting a dog. Which breed do you suggest?
I don’t know the person well. I don’t know if he is actually getting a dog. But the comments were revealing in ways people process and engage with others, and I think it can serve as an example to us all.
Most suggested their individual favorite breeds, sharing stories of their own current or past dogs. There were suggestions for large dogs and small dogs, long hair and short hair, energetic and gentle. Some people suggestion breeds who travel well. Others suggested dogs who are content to be home alone all day. In addition to breeds, people suggested dog training options, subscription boxes, durable beds and toys, and more. But what the majority of people did not comment is questions that would help with their suggestions.
- Are you looking for a family friendly dog?
- What is your schedule like?
- Do you have any allergies?
- What’s most important to you, and what concerns do you have?
- What experiences do you have with dogs?
- What kind of outside space do you have?
- Why are you considering getting a dog?
Unless we know some background, we don’t know how best to advice someone—and it’s not just about choosing a dog breed. There are so many times we have the opportunity to speak into someone’s life. They invite us in, and we decide to give them all the information we have, framed in our experiences and preferences instead of patiently asking questions and walking alongside people as they process.
We don’t invest in people well when we don’t ask questions with genuine interest, when we focus more on what we want to share than what people need. If we suggest a dog who is not a good fit for someone just because it is a good fit for us, we cause more problems than we help solve.