With all the problems and life changes our family has been through in the past few years, I have come to realize something. In the art of conversation, people fall mostly into two ranks: listener and fixer.
Listeners, are those who, well, LISTEN. They let us vent, cry, scream, whatever, pat our hand, give us a hug and LISTEN. Fixers, are those who no matter what you tell them, have advice. Of course, most people aren’t 100% one or the other. Art, for example is 75% fixer. I, on the other hand, am about 95% listener. I’m not saying one is better than the other. Both have their good and bad points.
Good and Bad Points of Listeners:
- The person who is venting (hereafter known as the venter) gets needed support
- A listener is a good sounding board for bouncing ideas
- Can be emotionally drained from intense conversations with venters.
- May allow the venter to wallow.
Good and Bad Points of Fixers:
- Have good suggestions
- Don’t take the conversation personally
- Might interrupt the venter
- Venter might feel like the fixer doesn’t care or isn’t really listening.
Most of us, as venters, need both a listener and a fixer, at times. So how can we meld these two traits together?
How to Be a Listener-Fixer:
- Always listen first. Don’t start formulating your response. Allow the other person to talk.
- Don’t interrupt. It’s rude. (There is one rule-breaker here: you may interrupt if a venter is indulging in negative self-talk, i.e.; I’m stupid, ugly, whatever. This type of talk is never helpful.)
- if you have heard the same vent on numerous occasions, or if the venter actually asks for your help, you can consider assisting him or her in identifying the problem that needs solving. (Remember, everyone processes their own life situation in their own time – rushing a person will not help them get there any faster – they’ll just resent you.)
- If you succeeded in #3, assist the venter in brainstorming possible solutions to the identified problem. Don’t push for what you think is the best option. Let them make their own decisions.
I am not a therapist – just an observer. These are just some ideas I’ve come up with in talking to friends and family.
What do you think? Are you a listener or a fixer? Any tips on how to be there for friends/family in need? Please leave your comments below.