A few years ago, during one of our customary weekend meet-ups, a close friend named started sharing her feelings about a difficult phase she was going through. The cafe we sat in bustled with chatter, the clink of coffee mugs, and a soft jazz tune playing in the background. But for those few moments, it felt as if the world had narrowed down to just the two of us.
As she detailed her challenges, my mind, trained in its 'fix-it' mode, started constructing a mental checklist. Therapy options, self-help books, seminars, even potential vacations she could take to reset. Before she had even finished her story, I was ready with my well-intentioned barrage of solutions. Eager to help, I started off, "you know what you should do..."
She listened patiently for a few minutes, her eyes that usually sparkled with energy, now misted with a mix of pain and frustration. Then, she gently cut me off, her voice trembling a bit, "Can't you just listen? Just... be here with me?"
That was a jolt to my system. Here was my dear friend, looking for support and understanding, and I was almost bulldozing her feelings with my need to 'fix'. We sat in silence for a while, the weight of her words sinking in. I reached out, took her hand, and simply said, "I'm here. Tell me more."
That day was transformative. It wasn't just about not providing a solution; it was about realizing that sometimes being present and offering a listening ear is the most potent form of support. Sometimes, people don't want answers; they just want to be heard. And sometimes, the 'fixing' they need is the healing that comes from a shared, silent moment.
When Listening Matters More Than Solutions
You know that feeling when you walk into a messy room and all you can think of is how to organize it? Or when someone like a close friend, tells you about a problem they're facing, and your immediate reaction is to jump in with a solution? Clearly, I've been there. That overwhelming urge to fix everything around us, whether it's a tangible situation or an intangible issue, is something many of us grapple with. Often, it stems from a deep-seated anxiety and the fear of things being 'out of control'.
The Impact on Our Lives
Having the urge to constantly 'fix' things might sound like a good trait. After all, isn't it beneficial to be solution-oriented? But when this desire goes overboard, it can take a toll on our mental and emotional well-being. For one, it creates a tremendous amount of self-imposed pressure. We start setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves, always being on high-alert for things that might need fixing.
Over time, this need can seep into our relationships too. Friends and loved ones might feel that we're not truly listening to them but are rather always looking for problems to solve. They might feel invalidated when all they wanted was a listening ear, and instead, we jumped straight to solutions.
Moreover, the constant fixation on 'fixing' can prevent us from being present in the moment. Instead of enjoying a beautiful sunset, for instance, we might be thinking about the peeling paint on our porch. It can trap us in a never-ending loop of anxiety, where we're always on the lookout for the next issue.
Overcoming the need to fix everything doesn't mean we become passive or indifferent. It means recognizing that sometimes, things need time to unfold on their own. Two broad thoughts to help shift this mindset:
Practice Active Listening: Before jumping into problem-solving mode, genuinely listen to what's being said. Sometimes, the act of listening can be more therapeutic and valuable than offering solutions.
Embrace Imperfection: Understand that it's okay for things to be imperfect. Not every situation requires immediate rectification. By learning to accept and sit with imperfections, we can find a sense of peace and reduce our anxiety.
Remember, life is a mix of the orderly and the chaotic. And while it's natural to want to make everything perfect, sometimes letting go and just being in the moment can be the most liberating feeling of all.