A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of simply being with people. I was touched by how much this concept resonated with people. And at the same time, again and again, I was asked:
What if the other person is not willing to simply be with me? What if they keep offering advice or trying to ‘fix’ me?
Most people will not simply be with someone because our default mode as humans is trying to do something, trying to solve and fix and give advice - both with ourselves and with others.
This ability to solve problems and fix things is awesome. It serves us well in the external, physical world. If an object is broken, we can figure out how to fix it. We find solutions to problems and we gain a sense of efficacy in the world.
We feel powerful. And useful.
We then try to apply this way of being to our inside world of thoughts, emotions and sensations. We treat emotions as problems to be handled, as if we could think the pain away or find a way out of it.
Yet most emotional issues have no solution. There is nothing to be solved. There is no magical answer to many of life’s difficulties.
And yet, we attempt to do this with ourselves and we do it with the people we love because we want to be helpful.
It isn’t our fault - it is simply the way the human mind evolved.
So most of the time, people are not able to simply be with us because they don't know how to do this or that this is even an option.
We need to help others help us by giving them permission to do what feels like nothing - and yet is so much.
Here is a simple way of helping people step out of their default ‘fix-it’ mode when you would like then to simply be with you.
1. Start by recognising their intention…
Most of the time, when people give us advice or try to fix us, they are simply trying to be helpful.
This is how the mind evolved after all.
Recognise and thank them for their intention:
I really appreciate your help / advice …
I know you are trying to be helpful…
2. …Then ask for what you need
Use AND instead of BUT to state your need in the moment:
I appreciate your help / advice AND
…right now could you simply hold me ?
…could you simply sit here with me without saying or doing anything?
…would it be OK to simply listen without giving any advice or trying to fix this?
Basically we are asking people to connect with us from their heart, not their mind.
We are asking for something that will feel very uncomfortable for most people, and that is OK. It is also OK if they are not able to do it straight away.
Like any need, we will probably need to ask again and again, to remind those who care about us for what we need.
And if we try a few times, and someone is still not capable of simply being with us in this way, this also provides information about the relationship.
Asking for what we need is one of the most difficult things we can do. What counts is simply that we asked, not how the person responds which is out of our control.
As one of the founders of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Kelly Wilson says, humans are more like sunsets than math problems.
Lets help people see us as sunsets.