I FEEL SO POWERLESS
if I don’t DO something to help!
PREVIOUS: ACoAs & Listening (Part 1)
REVIEW post: “Rescuing – False Helping”
2. (A) When someone asks you to listen to them AND you insist on saying / doing something to solve their problem, you actually have failed them, strange as it may seem, because…
…when you do for them what they can AND need to do for themselves, you contribute to their sense of inadequacy & fear of taking appropriate risks. And they can do things for themselves. They’re not helpless. Maybe discouraged & faltering, but not helpless.
• IRONY: we use a great deal of intelligence, creativity, money, time – even wisdom – on someone else, BUT genuinely believe we don’t know how to handle our own problems! How is that possible, when we just used all those skills for others?
• REALITY: We use up a lot of our energy trying to save someone else, AND want, yes demand, that someone else do the same for us! WE want to be taken care of, even tho we also have the ability to care for ourselves. It’s the same for the other person.
• Rule #1, again – zip the lip!
• Often people just need a non-judgmental sounding board – to hear themselves think. By running it past a good listener, they can hear the problem for what it is, maybe even find their own answers
• You can ASK if they need practical suggestions, but only give it IF….
…. they say yes & you believe they’re willing to do things for themselves (not just trying to be taken care of, or need to be oppositional)
…. you actually know, maybe from experience, what you’re talking about
• You need to CHECK what they….
…. are planning to do, in the near future
…. have already done, but for some reason they didn’t work or didn’t help!
A VARIATION on point #2
What if someone asks you directly to tell them what to do?
a. Naturally if you are sought out as a professional (doctor, decorator, coach, teacher, lawyer…) you’re paid to give your expert opinion & advice.
— However, for psychologists, psychotherapists… – the rules are different. The goal is more about mirroring, giving feedback (true listening), providing the client with option & helping them find what’s right for themselves.
b. For the rest who are not being paid, teach or heal, there are options.
• ASK if they want ‘advice’ OR information – not the same thing!
Advice is telling someone what you think they should do, be, feel, think based on yourself, not who they are! No matter how right or helpful the info is, it’s not listening.
Information is giving knowledge they may not have, including options, without an emotional valence attached. They can use it or not, as they wish We often tell people to DO things they’re already tried. Don’t waste their time or yours! Good listening is hard for ACoAs, but worth the effort!
i. When you know the listen-ee well, you probably know —
— if they already know what to do – but in this case refuse. Don’t push
— that they may know, but really do need some help implementing a solution. Suggest someone else who is qualifies & willing, or if it doesn’t harm you, you can offer, but think twice before you do
— that they really don’t know. The you can decide IF you want to give them info, or suggest where they can get it (on Google, from Al-Anon or AA, some books you recommend…)
ii. If it’s someone you just met or don’t know well, start by asking some pertinent questions —
— What do they WANT from you? What are they really asking for & how much? See post “Healthy Helping”. If you can get that far with them, the conversation may take a different turn than how it started
— What have they done about this so far? & how have those things turned out? This saves time & energy suggesting things they’ve already covered.
• If they’ve tried a number of things which have all been disappointing, there may be absolutely nothing you can contribute
• IF their response to any suggestions is always a version of “Yes but… that won’t work / I can’t because….” then either you’re asking the wrong questions or they’re playing the “Yes, But” game from GAMES PEOPLE PLAY, by Eric Berne. In the latter case they don’t actually want an answer, they want to be parented AND be contrary, which is a child’s way of saying “You can’t control me.”
NEXT: ACoAs & Listening (Part 3