Sometimes the Best Advice is No Advice

I have a confession to make.  I am an in-recovery fixer.  It is difficult to accept that sometimes it is not my responsibility to fix another person’s problem or prevent them from making a mistake.

Fixers like me are notorious for offering advice, whether it is wanted or not.  We forget that very often, when someone asks us to listen to them, they are not looking for explanations or asking us to solve their problem. They are asking us to hear them, to understand them and to let them work things out for themselves.  And even when they do want us to just make it all go away, it is seldom in their best interest for us to do so.

While the intent behind many a fixer’s desire to help is to relieve or eliminate inconvenience or a painful learning experience, the truth is that by jumping in, we disempower the other person.  Our over-protectiveness prevents the personal and emotional growth of those in our circle of influence.

And as much as fixers don’t like to admit it, a side benefit of being a fixer is that we maintain control of the person, the problem and the solution.

I’ve found the following questions and validation phrases help me stay out of fixer mode and provide the framework for someone to come up with their own solution to challenging situation.

1.   Help me understand the situation.

2.   What a challenging situation to be in.

3.   What do you think caused the problem?

4.   How … where … when did it happen?

5.   How do you feel about that?

6.   What would you like to do?

7.   What do you think will work?

8.   Are there any other options?

9.   What are the results you are hoping for?

10. Is there anything I can do to help you?

Making the move from a fixer mindset to a supporter mindset means consciously giving control back to the person with the problem. It means “I trust you and know that you can come up with a solution and that if you make a mistake, you will learn from it.”  It means providing a supportive environment where mistakes are looked upon as learning opportunities, not as failures.  It is hard to change from a fixer role to a supporter role, but seeing the confidence and personal growth in others when we resist the temptation to fix, makes it worth the effort.

2 thoughts on “Sometimes the Best Advice is No Advice

  1. “We forget that very often, when someone asks us to listen to them, they are not looking for explanations or asking us to solve their problem. They are asking us to hear them, to understand them and to let them work things out for themselves.”

    Laurie,

    It took me many years to truly “get” this. I tend to want to provide solutions when problems are presented. But as you mentioned, the other person usually isn’t asking for solutions. They just want to be heard.

    I’ve noticed that when I’m the person talking to somebody else about a problem I’m having, I’m not always ready for the solution even if it is obvious. I’ve looked back on some things that were quite obvious 6 months, a year, a couple of years, etc. later, but I just needed more time to grow in order to do what needed to be done.

    Also, thanks for including my blog on your blogroll. I really appreciate it!

    • Good point Greg about not always being ready to implement a solution. I’m glad you mentioned that because it’s easy to get caught up on the “If only I had earlier”. If we’re not ready, we’re not ready and sometimes waiting for the growth to happen is absolutely the right move.

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