Sometimes we need someone to simply be there, not to fix anything or do anything in particular, but just to let us feel we are supported and cared about.
-unknown, shared by Pat in Kansas City, MO
People who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witness. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpful vigil to our pain.
-Glennon Doyle, shared by Emma in Viroqua, WI
OK, I’ll admit it: I’m a fixer.
When someone shares a difficult situation they’re grappling with, or challenge that they aren’t sure how to navigate…my first instinct is to quickly move into helping them identify options for making things better. My intentions are mostly honorable: I want my friend to be in a better place they seem to be in! (I say “mostly” honorable, because sometimes I wonder whether my ego is getting involved too, excited about the idea of being the person who swoops in to save the day.)
The down side of these good intentions is that my rush to solutions can overwhelm someone who hasn’t yet had a chance to catch their breath. It is also true that early suggestions too often miss the mark because we don’t even know all the relevant information that can help us identify useful paths forward. And get this: It. Turns. Out. I. Don’t. Have. All. The. Answers.
When I’m at my best, I catch myself before I start tossing out ideas and suggestions and solutions and advice and such. I’m able to pause, take a deep breath and pivot away from trying to fix, so I can instead attempt to witness: see the person for who they are in that precise moment and activate my internal reserves of empathy and compassion.
My friends will tell you I miss the mark. A lot. A couple of my closest pals have called me on it, and some difficult conversations have helped me remember times when the tables have been turned, and well-meaning people steamroll over my own pain, offering trite phrases and quick fixes instead of hugs and comfort.
Let’s use this week to keep our eyes, our ears, and our hearts open for people around us who are struggling. Let’s be so determined to serve as loving witnesses that we can resist any temptation to fix, fix, fix. As a bonus, I’m going to also dare myself to speak up when I’m needing a hug instead of advice. Are you in?
P.S. Welcome to a huge batch of new Ripplers from Cal Poly, P&G, EY, and GE. Great to have you on board!