Greetings, dear readers!
How did your week of stepping back and changing perspective go? Were you able to pause in your patterns, talk them out and make some better steps? I hope so! I have successfully avoided going to a single grocery store all week! I’m having huge successes over here 😉
Last week’s conversation left me feeling connected to a greater community of like-minded folks who have all been where I am, for me to turn to for practical solutions to my various and sometimes petty challenges. As we know, everything has a balance, so it’s only fitting to spend this week talking about the power in not being “the fixer”.
Before you decide that this isn’t relevant to you because you aren’t the fixer in your circles, remember the last time someone told you about a concern in their life. What was your response? If it included any variation of “maybe you should/could/want to try/do/make/change X”, you have the helping impulse. Welcome to the human race! We all have the innate desire to respond to the hurts and concerns of those close to us, and it feels counterintuitive to keep all of our good advice to ourselves!
Giving helpful suggestions to your friends and family members when they come to you with concerns can be an excellent way to support and show love to those close to you. As I illustrated with my own foibles last week, you can offer valuable perspective that is nearly impossible to have while inside of the situation. Offering solutions seems like the logical next step when someone brings their problems to you, why else would they do it, right?
Here’s the thing, when we hear problems and offer unsolicited suggestions we are sending some significant messages to the person on the other end. Elevating yourself to expert level in someone else’s troubles is like trying to take control of the wheel of a moving car after listening to the driver tell you how tough it is to navigate the current conditions.
When we enter conversations with others in a frame of mind to offer compassion instead of suggestions, we become passengers in their car. The more we hear and show that we understand their challenges the closer we can get to seeing their perspective and offering wisdom we may have in this area. They’re describing the road to us, and we serve them best by attempting to feel what it would be like to try to keep things together and get to the destination with such a seemingly unfavorable stretch of road.
The most interesting thing about this compassion driven approach to our interactions with others is that the more we sit back and listen, the more active the other person gets in creating their own solutions! I honestly doubted it until I tried it myself.
For the last three years I’ve been slogging along with this one particular guy, giving him what I thought he needed; listening to his concerns, and giving him advice based on what I was hearing. He frequently called in one predicament or another begging for more help. He would tell me about these new issues and seemed to want me to offer suggestions, so I would. Three years later, very little has changed. The same concerns are there, some worse than before.
When I changed my intention from “Make This Person Better” to “Hear This Person with Compassion” I immediately felt the dynamic shift. No longer was I responsible to create change in this person’s life. I didn’t have to attempt to solve every concern, or have an answer for every problem. Do you know how powerfully freeing that is?! This person felt the difference as significantly as I did. In one interaction we already had a completely different relationship. They knew that I had heard them and “really understood”. Most importantly he recognized that I didn’t want to try to take over for him to make things better. I was there as a passenger to observe, attempt to understand and offer my compassion for the challenge. Just this simple feeling of having someone else get what’s going on empowered them to start to make changes on their own. I know that he will learn and grow through whatever he chooses to do. And you know what? When he wants advice, he asks. Or I ask if he wants it, and he can let me know. And it’s wonderful.
You are a brilliant person. You have incredible life experiences and a wealth of knowledge to share with the world. I wholeheartedly hope that you do just that as often as possible!! You also have incredible capacity to effect change in other people simply by being with them, hearing their concerns, and showing compassion. Not having to know just what to say or what advice to give frees you up to do this even more effectively. Leave others with the power to make their own choices and enjoy the freedom of not having to make changes on their behalf. You’ll be amazed at what can happen!