Help without fixing

Sometimes, we have stuff going on and a friend will make an inquiry. This is a good thing—we want our friends to notice and care when we have stuff going on. We want them to try to understand us, right?

But we’ve all been there, where someone asked us about what was going on and we told them, only to be met with advice and opinions. Often, the advice and opinions are not only unwanted, but they further confirm that our friend doesn’t understand us.

We thought we were giving an explanation when it turned out, we were giving fuel.

When we’re approaching someone else about something we want to talk about, we can say up front whether we’re looking for help fixing it or just to have someone listen.

When we’re approached, something like this can help:

“Are you asking to understand or to impart wisdom? I’m not looking for insight right now, but I’m happy to help you understand.”

Setting boundaries up front helps a lot. 

Of course, not all people respect the boundary; that’s a completely separate issue.

And for those of us (I think this is everyone) who hate feeling helpless as we’re told about things we can’t do a damn thing about, consider this. 

Often just talking and getting things out of our head is helpful. (Doesn’t that help you feel better sometimes?) 

And having a person offer their time and energy yields connection. (Don’t you feel relationships deepen when someone gives you a safe space to be vulnerable?) 

So while we can’t fix the problem, we can definitely help the person.

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