Do you feel the need to fix and solve problems for others?  Especially when they are emotional?

I worked with someone recently who deals with a lot of anxiety.  This person found herself in an emotional situation.  Someone said something to her that hurt her feelings and she felt disrespected.  As a result, she turned to a friend.  As she recounted to her friend what happened, trying to make sense of it, her friend immediately told her what to do and how she should feel about it.  She hadn’t asked her friend for help, or advice, and this made her even more emotional. Then eventually mad.   As are result, her friend became annoyed that she couldn’t just get over it and deal with the way she had told her.  Now they were both emotional and there was a lot of internal blaming going around.

It is hard to be with others in times of emotion or stress – especially if we know them well.  It is uncomfortable.  It feels awkward.  It can feel hard to know what to say or do.  

For many it feels instinctive to fix or solve what is going on for others in emotional times.

They tell others what to do to make the stress and emotions go away.  This can feel really good on our part because we are “helping”.  We are saving others from the feelings of stress and emotion by making it all “better”.  At least, this is what we tell ourselves as we pat ourselves on the back.  The truth is, we are not helping others at all.  The only people we are focused on, and “helping”, are ourselves.

Think of a time when you were feeling emotional and someone tried to fix you.

 What did that feel like?  Based on my experience, no one likes to be told what to do.  Myself included. Especially when emotions are involved.  When we fix and solve people it messages that we believe we know what is best for them.   We are focused on meeting our own needs – “helping” by making the uncomfortable stress or emotion go away for us – rather than focusing on their needs.  When we are focused on the needs of others it doesn’t involve us.  The focus is on them and how they want to move forward or fix/solve whatever may be happening for them.

4 Steps To Staying Connected in Emotional Situations

  1. Actively Listen:  This means keeping the focus on the speaker so that you can actively listen to what is going on for them.  Remember, this is about them not about you.
  2. Quiet The Internal Dialogue In Your Head: We all have that internal dialogue in our head and it competes with our ability to actively listen.  It also judges ourselves and others.  Being aware of the voice and intentionally quieting it allows you to keep the focus on the speaker, not you.
  3. Ask Open Questions To Learn:  It is easy to assume we know what is going on for someone.  However, 99.9% of the time what we assume is wrong.  The only way to know for sure what is going on for someone is to ask.  Focus on questions that begin with who, what, where, when and how to better understand what is going on for the speaker and what THEY want to do about it.
  4. Stay Curious:  Cultivating self-awareness is essential to our own personal and professional success.  Understanding our values, wants and boundaries helps us identify what is important to us so that we can sit comfortably in the discomfort of others.  Curiosity allows us to practice self-awareness and self-reflection so we can learn to distinguish the difference between what is happening to us VS what is happening for others.  

We all want to be seen, heard and understood – ESPECIALLY in emotional situations.  The only way you can do that is by being present to listen, choose to listen without judgment and ask open questions to learn.  The more you understand yourself, the easier it is to sit with others.  The next time you find yourself as the wingwoman in an emotional situation – remember, this is about them.  Not you.  

Kirsten Siggins

Kirsten Siggins

Co-Founder of The Institute of Curiosity, Co-Author of The Power of Curiosity, Communication Ambassador for Wealthy Woman Warrior™

We specialize in high-quality conversations that build high-quality relationships. That means we help people STOP reacting (to people, emotions, events) and learn to start RESPONDING to engage and inspire others, especially in emotional or high stakes situations.


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