The meaty stuff first for it to land.
This topic is a hot one not because the action is complex but because the fear of getting it wrong and the consequences are huge. And it’s this that causes the confusion.
So let’s look at when this problem may come up as an example.
Yesterday I thought my hubby was in a ‘bad’ mood. Notice I didn’t say ‘my hubby was in a bad mood!’ This is the first point to make, we all make assumptions of what their actions and behavior mean to us. So, if I go quiet it means I am upset and so I assume that if he goes quiet he is upset. But here is the problem with assumptions- they are based on your map of the world. See when I asked him why is he quiet he said – he was ‘thinking’ and not upset at all.
So just by being aware that you are basing your conclusions on your assumptions and accepting they may actually be way off the mark!
Can you see how we can make a problem out of something that really isn’t?
In the same breath, how many times have you assumed she is ok when she is quiet because she is ‘thinking’ and actually she is upset, frustrated, or disappointed?
The second mistake we make is believing we can fix them.
Last week I not only assumed he was upset but I then tried to ‘fix’ him like he was broken and I was his mother! Omg, it was not one of my best days! I have to be honest hence me writing this article. Because if the bloody expert can get it wrong then it needs to be shared.
See this piece comes from a place of love and selfishness. Yes, I said it selfishness. Because you want to take away their perceived (from your point of view, which may or may not be their truth) discomfort in an as shorter time as possible so you feel better. I know I said it – the truth is you don’t fix them for them but so you don’t have to bear seeing them uncomfortable because it makes you uncomfortable.
Now that is the real reason – I couldn’t deal with being uncomfortable and I wanted the feeling to go away as quickly as possible. So I fixed the ‘problem’ which wasn’t him being quiet but me being uncomfortable with him being quiet. Boom let that land!
We want to fix them so we don’t feel uncomfortable.
And so here is why jumping in and fixing someone can actually pull you further apart, not to mention you assuming they aren’t capable or strong enough to ‘fix’ themselves.
This is actually the piece that not only moves you further away from your partner but also reinforces that you don’t trust them to manage their own emotions. You are questioning their emotional intelligence.
Now I hear you saying well I have the ‘facts’ of the past, they didn’t fix it for themselves. So, the questions I have for you are…
- Did they see it as a problem or was it you who saw it as a problem?
- Did you give them space to fix or did you jump right in
- What you learn from the last experience of trying to ‘fix it’?
See the truth is you can’t fix anyone and by trying to do so you are denying yourself and them the opportunity to understand yourselves and grow through the discomfort of the situation. If you keep picking the child up every time they fall they will never learn to walk.
So the next question is ‘Do you just leave them even if you can see they are hurting?’ When do you help and when do you not?
Well, the truth is there is only one way of knowing but before you do you have to ask yourself the question are you helping because it elevates your discomfort or theirs?
If it is yours – ask yourself what do you need to learn and go figure that out for me. That day it was patience and trust he will figure it out in his own way not my way. This is when you lean back and don’t help them because you are not in the right place to help them. Put your oxygen mask on first.
Second, if it is coming from a place of helping them not releasing your tension then before you jump in to fix ask them
‘Do you want me to help you or do you need space?’
Or ‘ what do you need?’
Then wait, give them time to process, and notice what their nonverbals are doing. Do they connect with you with eyes or arms or do they look away?
Wait for their response.
The reason why this step is so crucial is because you are asking permission to enter their world. You are saying I respect you and trust you don’t need me to fix it you are strong enough and I am here if you need.
It shows respect, trust, and love but only if you have put your oxygen mask on first.
I would love your feedback and comments on this one it is a biggie.