Often, after a workshop, a participant will approach me for a chat. They want to share a story, ask for a book or web site suggestions, offer feedback, or merely say thank-you.
Sometimes they request advice about a workplace issue. Always glad to be of service, if I can. Sometimes, they just want someone to talk with, and I try to be a good listener. People tell strangers personal stories they won’t tell their best friends.
But…sometimes they are asking on behalf of someone else. They are concerned about a co-worker, friend, partner, classmate, neighbor, spouse, or child. A friend has need of information about improving a resume, dealing with a difficult boss, or house hunting here in Denver. My response is almost always the same. I hand the person a business card, thank them, and say,
“I would be more than happy to talk with (your co-worker, friend, partner, classmate,
neighbor, spouse, or child over the age of 18) about their issue. No charge.”
About half the time the person will take my business card, thank me, and leave. And that is the last I hear from them, in most cases. Rarely, I receive a phone call or e-mail from the interested third party; again, I do what I can–at the minimum a pleasant chat or e-mail exchange. However, some people keep talking. They want to help the third party, and they want me to give them information on behalf of the person who is not there. Who, in my experience, might not want or need their help. Who, I am sure, will be unlikely to follow up on second-hand information. Whose situation might not be well represented by the person who is standing in front of me, speaking on their behalf.
So, I say,
“I would be more than happy to talk with (your co-worker, friend, partner, classmate, neighbor, spouse, or child over the age of 18) about their issue. No charge.”
And, I walk away.