You know you do it.
Give that automatic response of a solution to someone’s struggle or frustration. “You should do this….” or “This is what I did when I had that problem.….”
The need to fix things. Over the past few months I have had a few clients bring this up in our coaching sessions. I think it’s a topic worth digging into because I’m guessing you may be one of those “fixers” too.
When I first began my coach training, I had a really hard time to stop trying to fix my client’s problems. Having worked in the insurance industry in customer service for 24 years prior to this, it was how I earned my living. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only coach in training struggling to break this well engrained habit. We live in a world where, for a majority of us, a large portion of our daily job is to resolve a problem or an issue. Either for a customer or for our employer. We come home and continue to fix things for our family. The world is full of problems that need solving.
So is it any wonder that when it comes to our relationships we bring the same approach?
We bring this same approach to our relationships for two reasons. One, it’s what we know. It’s a well worn path that we don’t even have to think about. Except when it comes time to try to get off of that path. It’s a habitual process for us. Kind of like breathing is. The second reason is because it works in the rest of our lives so it seems logical that it should work here too. Except that for a majority of the time it actually doesn’t.
When it comes to personal relationships the desire to try and fix it for others comes from a good place. As human beings we hate to see others suffer. Especially if they’re someone we love or care about. So our intentions are good. But that doesn’t mean it’s always a good reason to do it.
The other piece that I believe plays a role here is the need to be able to control the situation. When we stand in the perspective of fixing something we are in control. We’ve got the reins and we are guiding the wagon in the direct we want it to go. It’s safe, it’s comfortable and it’s familiar.
But when it comes to interpersonal relationships many of us are missing several key skills in order for that relationship to be more fulfilling and rich, for both of you.
If, like my clients, you’re coming to the realization that your desire to want to fix things for everyone is actually causing more problems than strong relationships, then consider the following 4 skills as a replacement for the approach of being a “fixer.”
Listening – If you’ve read any of my past posts you know that I speak often of the skill of listening. The first step to not being a fixer is to listen not at the internal level but at the focused level. (See above link for more) Ignoring the thoughts going on in your own head and hearing more than just the words of who’s speaking. What is going on over there with them in this moment, not with you.
Empathy – If you are listening with Focused Listening then you also need to bring in the skill of empathy as you respond. Here is were we really begin to change how you interact when someone has problem. To learn more about the skill of empathy and how to practice it read the post linked too empathy.
Curiosity – Being curious when in conversation is such a gift to the other person. When we are curious it is received as interest. When we are curious we are not seeking to give an opinion or advice, but to learn more about what is going on with the other person and what is occurring for them. By digging deeper than the surface issue with our curiosity we will often find there’s more going on than the initial topic.
Questions vs Solutions – From that place of curiosity ask open ended questions. (Ones that can’t necessarily be answered with a yes or no.) And the very first one to always ask is either, “What do you need from this conversation with me?” or “Are you needing a solution to your problem or do you just need someone to listen?” The answer to this will tell you exactly where to go from here.
All 4 of these skills are learned. With time, attention and practice you can become better at them. No different than learning how to ride a bike or how to cook.
Whether it be a particular friend, your partner or your children that you’re having a tough time with, working at these 4 steps can change things for you both. Resulting in a much more fulfilling and connected relationship.
By realizing how our strong desire to want to “fix things” for others actually affects them and causes stress or anxiety for us, we can begin to decrease our stress and create more fulfilling relationships in our lives.
Need help working on these 4 skills? Working with a coach will hold you accountable to making those changes and have you creating deeper more meaning relationships in your life. I’m always ready to support you to make those changes.
Know someone this blog post may benefit? Feel free to pass it along.