The least likely, but most valuable, source of experience

I am sitting in a forum presentation, and members have begun to share their experiences.  I sometimes think, unfairly, that one particular forummate will have little to contribute on the current issue.

This is where the power of experience sharing (instead of advice giving) often surprises and delights me.  The member I have in mind may not have the confidence or expertise to tell the presenter what to do, but he or she has a deep reservoir of experience that can be surprisingly relevant.

I’m thinking of two particular examples.  In one case, a forum member had described a significant business decision that would have huge impact on his employees and community.  The least likely member to contribute (in my narrow mind) shared not a business, but a personal experience, that in the end resonated more with the presenter than any of the seemingly more relevant business experiences that others had shared.

In another case, an older member had presented on a tough family relationship situation.  In response, a younger forum member shared his experience of a relationship at work and what he had done to repair the relationship.  The younger member was at a very different life stage and had no directly comparable way to shed light on the older member’s family dynamic.  He instead drew on a very relevant work situation.

I’ve learned that before we jump to give advice, we need to trust the process.  Sometimes the most valuable contribution comes from the least likely place because we have empowered every member to share experience, not limited ourselves to those best positioned to give advice.

Bob Halperin

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