Every single person you meet shares a common desire. They want to know:
- Do you see me?
- Do you hear me?
- Does what I say mean anything to you?
Oprah Winfrey’s quote remind us that our job is not to always have the answers or to fix people. People don’t need fixing! They need to be seen, heard, and given the freedom to fix themselves. Our desire to “fix” people, often times, has more to do with our need to validate ourselves than with helping the other person.
When we as parents, partners, or leaders jump in every time there’s a problem and fix it, we indirectly tell others that they do not have the ability to fix themselves. As a result, they come to us every time there is a problem and we never empower them to develop self-esteem and resiliency.
Consider one or more of the following steps next time someone comes to you with a problem:
- Avoid the temptation of immediately telling them what to do
- Do not turn the focus back on you and your experiences in life
- Acknowledge their experience (remember: it’s real and true to them)
- Thank them for trusting you enough to share what they are going through
- Ask questions that help them see the situation from different points-of-view
- Ask how you can best be there to support them through this experience
- Try to get their opinion about what they need to do before you offer yours
- End the conversation by validating them (i.e. I just want you to know that I admire your ability to always pick yourself back up and be even stronger. You’ve demonstrated that time-after-time since I’ve known you and I probably don’t tell you that enough. I know you’ll do the same thing in this situation. I believe in you and you do not have to go through this alone.)
You do not have to know what to say and sometimes saying nothing is best. Just be there to make them feel seen and heard and let them know that they are not crazy for feeling the way they feel.
Your value does not come from having all the answers. Your value comes from being able to use your presence to make people feel less alone in the world.