You’re Annoying When You Try to Fix People

woman-1006102_960_720Secret confession: I love the Coldplay song “Fix You.” I have an acapella version of it that is devastating. I play it and sing and cry my eyes out, in my car, alone.

Public image announcement: I tell my students that I hate that Coldplay song “Fix You.” I tell them that they should never try to fix people. I tell them to fix themselves.

They say we teach what we most need to learn.

I try to fix people all the time… It never works.

In the song, he talks about someone he loves with tears streaming down their face. He will try to fix them.

I know that moment: Please, person I love, be happy. Don’t be in pain. Don’t cry. Let me try every possible way to make it better. Have you seen my jazz hands?

Again, I’ll repeat: It never works.

7455206558_b16e6ecf62_bYou might wonder, aren’t you just being nice? Showing you care? No. Why? Because this is what people hear:

  • I don’t trust you to fix yourself
  • I’m better than you, and I know how to handle this better
  • I can’t handle it when you are emotional

People perceive fixing and advice giving as an attack, and the last thing you are probably trying to do is attack. If you’re like me, your thoughts are more like this:

  • I am scared that you’re sad
  • I love you so much and don’t want to see you in pain
  • I would do anything I could to make your pain go away

So why don’t we say what people most want to hear? Why don’t we just say, “I love you, and I know you’ll figure it out”?

Because the tears stream down people’s faces.

Because the frustration flows out in people’s words.

Because the pain shows in people’s eyes.

Seriously, when you love someone, these moments can be practically unbearable to witness. It is like being asked to just stand there while someone struggles to survive.

But you can. You can just stand there. Be there. Witness. Reflect. Let them talk it through without giving suggestions. Listen to the ideas they’ve tried. Encourage them to think of their own new solutions. Take your energy out of the process – it doesn’t belong there.

Love in Heaven

Witness pain. It’s ok. Breathe.

Hold space for sadness. It’s ok. Breathe.

Listen through frustration. It’s ok. Breathe.

Create a new script: “I hear you. I understand. Of course you feel upset. That makes sense. It’s ok. You can feel upset. You can cry. I won’t fall apart. I’ll sit with you. I’ll breathe with you. Tell me what you have tried. Tell me what you want to do. I’m here. I love you, and I know you’ll figure it out.

And the tears stream down people’s faces.

I love you, and I know you’ll figure it out.

And the frustration flows out in people’s words.

I love you, and I know you’ll figure it out.

And the pain shows in people’s eyes.

I love you, and I know you’ll figure it out.

You will figure it out.

It’s so annoying when I try to fix people. It never works, and I’m finally ready to quit. I’ll keep playing that Coldplay song, but from now on, I will focus on the most important work I can ever really do:

I’ll fix myself.

Or maybe, I’ll finally understand that no one, including myself, needs fixing.

What we need most is love. And also maybe a good singing cry. In the car. Alone. And some dancing in the kitchen with your dog. And sometimes a nap. OK, I’m going to stop now. See how hard it is for me not to give advice?

Breathing over here… breathing.

Beautiful reader: You look amazing today. You are smart and strong no matter what you are going through. The answers are all there.

I love you, and I know you’ll figure it out.

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