Upon hearing a problem – whether situational or emotional – there is an ingrained desire within many people (especially men) to jump into troubleshooting mode. We want to fix it. We want to solve the problem producing the pain.
If you have been in any kind of relationship for very long, you will discover that the loving attempt to “fix it” will often times result in frustration and further pain. A problem is presented, you move to fix the problem, they push back and seem to not like your “fix” or keep on talking about the problem, you feel frustrated because your advice isn’t being heeded, and they get further upset because now you are mad at them on top of their already existing painful problem. Now both parties are in pain after a well-intentioned effort to solve the problem of pain.
Here is where you will find a breakthrough and a solution to the problem of pain: don’t try to fix it.
Please understand that the problem-solving is not the problem. The problem is the timing of the problem-solving attempt.
If you want to demonstrate your love and get the felt benefit of being heard and appreciated, consider putting a pause on the problem-solving drive within you. Hit the pause button until your loved one tells you they have felt heard and are ready to hear your “fix it” plan. When the one you care about tells you about their pain, they are looking for an partner to come alongside of them in the midst of their struggles. They are longing for someone who is fighting the proverbial dragon with them rather than someone who is abandoning them to fight the dragon alone while shouting “helpful advice” from a distance.
If you want to demonstrate your love and feel heard yourself, try this approach:
Listen without interruption. Reflect back with empathy what you have heard (without adding in advice or what you would do or feel). Listen some more. Empathize some more. Repeat until the one you love specifically asks for your insight on how to “fix it.” If it seems like they are not going to ask for your advice, ask them if they would like for you to come alongside of them and troubleshoot the problem or if they simply need you to listen.
Sometimes the best way to “fix it” is to not try to “fix it” but to listen with empathy.
Recently featured in the Rejoicing Rebecca newsletter as Relationship Commandment #8