A coworker once told me a story that I’ve remembered ever since.
He used to work at a software company that kept a life-size cardboard cutout of Michael Jordan in one corner of the office. When an engineer got stuck on a problem they would walk over to Michael and tell him all about it.
Michael would listen carefully, and – ah-ha! – the engineer would walk back to their desk with the answer. Michael was awesome like that.
As smart people, we think the best way to help another person with a problem is to go after the answer: brainstorm for it, interrogate for it, provide it from our own experience – get it out there. But Michael knows that isn’t true. We can just listen and let the other person figure it out on their own. It doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s better, and it’s always the first thing to try.