A Little Goes a Long Way
Are you a fixer? Are you a person who others seem to radiate to with their problems? If so, you must be a good listener with a good heart. But I would like to challenge you for a moment to think about something. When is enough enough? If you are perpetually busy ‘fixing’ others and telling them what they need to do in life, two things happen. First, they become dependent on you and over time may even believe they can’t do it without you. This can be a ego booster for you but what about the other person? Not so good for them as their confidence seems to melt before their eyes.
The second thing that happens to perpetual fixers is that they have no time left to work on their own issues. Think about it. Each of us have things to learn and areas in which to recognize, develop and improve upon. But honestly, it’s much less fearful to work on others rather than on self right?
I am not suggesting that you turn your back on people who need you. The issue seems to be one of balance. If you find yourself dreading the next phone call or email from a particular person because they seem to be having yet another melt down the answer is clear. You have become a crutch rather than a temporary support and no one wins.
The most helpful thing we can do for others is to help them figure out what they need to do by asking them gentle, probing questions and encourage them to think through their own issues. You may need to hold your hand over your mouth as a reminder not to jump in and tell them what they need to do. After all it is easy to see the solution when you are not weighed down by the stress and emotions of it all. But until they practice wrestling with the monsters in the room they will be stuck in neutral. You have the power to change that for them by listening and not telling. Over time they will gain a renewed sense of self worth and confidence by realizing that they truly can figure out their own life challenges without you. They have graduated!
We can choose to help others breathe more deeply and understand more fully or simply hand them a quick fix – a solution to their present dilemma. But don’t be surprised if they don’t follow through with your suggestions. Why? The cardinal rule of counseling is to get the person to think hard enough to generate their own light bulb moments because they are more likely to follow the solution when they come up with it themselves.
Does this approach seem strange to you? If so, think back in your own life when your parents told you this or that … did you follow their suggestions? Probably not. As individuals we need to work, sweat and figure things out on our own. We simply don’t internalize someone else’s lesson. It has to be first person present tense to get it.
We all need someone to listen to us from time to time. Be that empathic listener. Just remember to do twice as much listening as talking and you will be happier with the results.
Have a great few days!