We see this everywhere today. Children are cheated of any chance to fail by well-meaning parents. College grads who can’t find work have no reason to leave the comfort, security, and video games in their parents’ basement. Bad employees do subpar work, and their teammates pick up the slack and fix their problems—again.
I’m guessing that most of this is done with good intentions. Intentions to help and serve. The problem is we rob people of the opportunity to experience their own problems. We keep them in a vicious cycle where they never learn to solve problems and emerge stronger than before.
Facing problems is good. Facing problems is important. Facing problems is essential.
When you find yourself desiring to keep people from the pain or heartache of a problem, think twice. You might be doing them a favor by letting them experience the problem that was intended for them that leads to the growth that was meant for them.
I’m not advocating intentionally hurting people, and I’m also not saying that there never is a time when we should step in to help someone out.
When someone brings a problem to you or you see them struggling consider some of the following…
- Be quiet. Don’t respond. Just look empathetically (not pathetically) at them and give them 10-12 seconds to keep talking. Maybe they need you to listen. Maybe they need to hear themselves talk and listen to their own story. Whatever the situation, just be quiet and see what the silence yields.
- Ask questions. By the way, your suggestions disguised as questions don’t count (i.e. Have you ever thought about…? What would happen if you…?) Ask questions like:
- What do you think would be the best long-term?
- How do you think you got to this situation?
- Have you been in this situation before?
- Where are you spending your time right now?
- What have you already done?
- What help do you want from me?
- What would be the wise decision?
- Do you know what would be fair?
- Push back. Challenge them and help them see the situation from your position. Maybe you are the only person that can help them gain perspective on their issues.
- Love them. You don’t need to be harsh or leave them in a suffering state. To love someone is a verb; it is not a feeling. Show them you love them. Show them you care for them.
- Repeat their feelings back to them. Instead of responding with ideas, solutions, or suggestions simply restate what you believe they are feeling. If they are scared and confused you could say “It seems like you are really scared and confused right now.” You might not feel like captain genius with that statement, but it will give them the opportunity to either validate their current feelings or to correct you with what they are really experiencing.
Give the gift of problem-solving. Research shows that children who had to struggle—who were faced with figuring their own way through their problems became more well-adjusted adults and faced fewer challenges later in life. More importantly, children who had everything given to them and were not allowed the privilege of working through their own problems, struggled more emotionally as adults and were less successful and independent.
If you care for someone, allow them the gift of experiencing and solving their problems. The tension and struggle may not feel good at the moment but it is what makes us stronger and builds the perseverance and character needed to be successful in life. Lead well, lead often and #LeadStrong!