It is a weird thing with „fixing others“. Only recently I noted how deeply this behavior is ingrained in my system.
Actually it was a recent incident that made me understand: I run into a friend. This friend has a tooth problem. She lives with it since about four years now, having it fixed with a temporary denture only. That is partly because she does not want to spend much money, but also because she has real fear of dentists. And the only dentist she trusts is an extremely expensive one…
This week her temporary denture finally broke.
Four years ago I had spent hours researching solutions, such as where to get her teeth fixed at very little cost. She did not follow any of my advice. This is why these days when I heard about her mishap I had no idea what else to tell her. I had exhausted my jokers.
Frankly: I was rather annoyed when I heard about her problem. I felt so… helpless. I definitely could not fix her problem back then and much less now. What should I tell her?
One thing I had heard from various sources recently was that “just listening”, “just being there”, is very helpful and soothing for people in discomfort. I took notice of this information, but it was hard for me to fully get the point of why “just listening” could be of any help or special benefit to people in need. I am a fantastic fixer – I find solutions for almost anything. Isn’t “fixing the problem” much better that just “listening to the problem”?
Yeah. And then I run into that friend who’s problem I could not fix… and instead of “listening” I turned away, annoyed and… ashamed…
All that made me think. “I am no good listener” came into my mind. Why is that so? I am a highly sensitive ACA (all ACAs are highly sensitive, it is our character trait, our survival mechanism). I could almost read other people’s minds. Why can’t I listen?
And then the insight hit me: Listening to another person takes time. You have to listen for quite a while, and then, very, very carefully assemble the information you heard to a very provisional overall picture of the situation. Then maybe ask some additional questions to make the picture clearer… listen some more, just listen, and listen and ask, and listen some more…
What did I do instead, all these years? I jumped at the information that was given within the first 30 seconds and rushed into a making a very rough sketch of the situation – good enough for me to get into action mode and work out a solution.
A solution which I then threw at the person, but which – honestly speaking – very seldomly “fixed” the problem. Very frustrating.
Maybe it is time to try out something new. To switch from “fixing mode” to “listening mode”.
Just thinking of it gives me a good feeling… 🙂