It is very human to want to help someone, particularly someone you care about, when you see them stressed out or in pain. It is also very human to seek validation for your own experiences. Can you recall a time you needed to be heard, and someone told you what you “should” do instead? Not very helpful, huh?
As illustrated in the short video below, we can use empathy to be present for others during their struggles as to not fall into “fixing” mode- although well-intentioned, unless your thoughts and advice are requested, you should avoid giving them as to not alienate the person opening up to you, because advice may not be what they are seeking, or what they feel they need right then. Do not assume what they may need- ask them how you can help them in the moment to support their feelings, not to fix the issue.
Be an active listener, seeking the message being sent to you, instead of thinking of what you want to say next. You can reflect to the speaker that you heard them by repeating back in your words what they said, asking for clarification, and even just saying things like, “wow, that sounds rough,” and “what a difficult day you had.” Doing so illustrates that you represent a safe space where the speaker can open up, instead of a person who may be judging or not understanding them. You can also ask open ended questions, such as, “what happened next?” and “how did that make you feel?” These invite the speaker to fully express their feelings, and helps you truly hear them.
A discussion between you and the person you care for should occur to help you both articulate the ways that you like to give and receive support in your relationship, and to create space for you both to address issues together, instead of working against each other. This is pertinent practice for you to advocate for yourself when someone is trying to support you, and for you to know how to best assist someone when called on to do so.
For additional information on supporting and not fixing, check out the following:
It’s Not About The Nail https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg
Stop Trying to Fix Things, Just Listen! https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/skills-healthy-relationships/201606/stop-trying-fix-things-just-listen
Relationship Advice: How to Stop “Fixing” and Start Listening https://www.growingself.com/stop-fixing/
How to show up for a friend without trying to fix their problems, according to a therapist https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/how-to-support-a-friend-without-fixing-problems/