In the last few years, I’ve noticed blog posts, memes, videos, etc., talking about listening to understand vs. listening to problem-solve. Which, in general, is probably a good thing, because there are different types of “problem-solvers,” but these things tend to make the problem-solvers the “bad guy,” and that really frustrates me.
I know there are people out there that take serious issue with someone offering up solutions to problems. I feel like this has been caused by people who aren’t really trying to offer solutions, but are just attempting to dismiss someone by “solving their problem,” usually by just offering a suggestion the person could have figured out on their own. These people are the kind that just don’t want to be bothered with someone else, so they pretend to be “fixers.”
They also make it to where people like me, real problem-solvers, get judged for trying to help, when our intentions are truly just to help alleviate a struggle we are witnessing. There are some situations where a person just needs someone to listen to them, and I understand, and respect that need, and always try to give that space to do so, without interjecting unless asked. I don’t just dismiss everything and say “here’s how you fix it.” I acknowledge every aspect of what you’ve said, and even ask if you’ve tried anything to help (if it’s that type of situation. There aren’t clear solutions to everything, but there are solutions for many things, or at least aspects of them.)
For awhile, I didn’t want to label myself as a problem-solver because of how negatively the label is perceived, especially in the niches I write in, but I got over that. I got over it because I realized there are a lot of people out there that ARE looking for actual solutions, and if I can help even one of those people- I’ll deal with whatever stigma I have to. I’d rather help those that want to be helped than hide that I am all about finding solutions that are valid and will actually be something useable for those that desperately need them.
My mind sees potential consequences & problems, and the options to solutions to those, without me even realizing. It’s not a conscious choice. It’s just how my brain works. I was designed to be one of those people that figures out how to overcome challenges and adapts. I am thoroughly convinced of this both because I have been this way as long as I can remember, and because life has thrown a whole lot at me and expected me to just figure it out. I guess someone felt that being genetically designed this way wasn’t enough, so I need life experiences to go along with it.
Since my brain works how it does, and my adult life has been a serious challenge, I find it kind of ridiculous that we’ve basically created a society where people want you to feel weird about offering help, but they will simultaneously act like you’re awful for not helping. Some say you should let the people reach out to you, only, and never try to help unless asked.
The problem with THAT is, I know there are some people out here that have a very hard time asking for help. I know, because I am one of those people, and have ran into numerous like me during my life. There are times I’ve pleaded silently in my head for help of any kind with whatever was challenging me, but not speak one single word about the problem. I have encountered plenty that are the opposite, of course- they don’t have a problem asking for ANYthing, even if it’s way beyond what they reasonably should be, but just because there are more & more of those type, doesn’t mean those like me don’t exist anymore.
I refuse to forget those people who aren’t comfortable asking for solutions, or help, but still search the internet looking for them. So, if someone approaches me, or if I see an obvious need, I will continue to offer my solutions, in an appropriate manner, whenever I can, and also listen to anything they need to vent about. There have been many conversations that have started out with people taking some sort of anger out on me, and ending up stating they felt much better, and understood, by the end of it. Not because I had done anything wrong in the first place, but because of misplaced anger that I recognized, listened to, acknowledged, and then proceeded to discuss.
I would do the same even if the anger wasn’t misplaced, because that’s what I do.
I completely understand that there are graphics I make, and posts I write, that will have people in their feelings in all ways. I expect anger to be one of those feelings because not everyone will agree with everything I put out there. I’m okay with that. I recognize and respect that it takes different types to make this world work, that there are many different things that influence a person’s way of thinking, and that different perspectives create different belief systems, and opinions. It’s necessary. The world would be a pretty boring place if everyone thought and acted exactly the same.
My point is- offering solutions doesn’t mean I don’t completely see, and sympathize or empathize, with the situation. If I offer you a solution- it doesn’t mean I think you are lacking in any way. It just means we have different perspectives that allow us to see different options. I can guarantee you there would be a time that you could offer me a solution if we have continued interaction. That’s how it works. It’s often WHY we generally discuss our problems with friends, or family- to get their “take” on it. Especially with our friends, we’ll tell them things to see what their reaction is. It lets us evaluate how we feel about the problem on an even deeper level, whether we realize it, or not.
So, the next time you run into someone who offers solutions, evaluate their intentions before getting angry. Is your problem something that there could be a solution to? Why exactly are you so upset that solutions are being offered? Is there really some other aspect about the situation that is bothering you, or something preventing you from using those solutions? Consider approaching the conversation a bit more openly by telling whoever you’re talking to that you just need someone to listen without solutions at the beginning of the conversation, if that’s really what you want, but also- consider that maybe solutions ARE what you need.