My best friend told me on more than one occasion that I am a “fixer”. I can’t help it, I come from a long line of fixers – it is genetic. You have to understand that fixers are, on the most part, people who want to help others; giving something unconditionally in order that the other party can benefit. It makes us feel good, valued and it becomes instinctual.
We have this weird radar when we detect a challenge, problem or issue our little alarm system goes into action and somewhere off in the distance the Mighty Mouse songs begins….“Here I come to save the day…” We have no control over this. Kind of like how dogs can sniff out a thunderstorm before anyone else – we do that with problems. We can’t explain it and we are not always conscious of it, we just do it.
The one thing that fixers don’t understand is that our help is not always wanted. And it is not like we set out to fix the entire world’s problems; again, it is instinctual. Sometimes we just dive right in and don’t even realize that we are wandering in woods where we are not wanted. Kind of like poaching, but it is emotional poaching. We really don’t mean any harm.
Having this tendency is great for my client’s; I am able to let that instinct take over and run with it. However, I have to continually monitor myself during conversations to make sure this pesky little tendency doesn’t creep out and somehow take over. I have realized that not everyone wants my help; and have therefore learned (and continue to learn) how to just shut up.
When I hear others bring up a challenge or my radar goes off, I have to stop myself before I speak. I have this little internal conversation with myself: “just listen, are they venting or asking for help?” If it is a venting session then shut up and if they are asking for help then offer to help and let it be their choice.
My son taught me the difference between venting and asking for help. When he used to vent I would immediately jump in to fix – combine fixer with motherhood and it goes into overdrive. One day he told me that he just wanted to vent, not to have me fix anything. Through trial and error we developed a communication that if he does not make it clear at the beginning that he is venting then I ask so we can avoid unpleasant conversations.
Of course, being a fixer is a continual challenge and as much as I try to keep a reign on it, there are times that it’s a sneaky little trait and just jumps out.
This weekend I ran into a friend of mine, a very successful mortgage broker. When I was preparing for a talk on 30 second elevator pitches I had a discussion with him and he told me he only introduces himself as a Mortgage Broker. I hate titles and it made me cringe, but I listened and he was very helpful in helping me prepare my speech.
This weekend we were talking and I thanked him again for his assistance and then it happened. The fixer side blurted out, “Please let me help you with your elevator speech.” Or something similar to this. I heard the words coming out and couldn’t stop them. Lucky for me my friend is very sweet and just smiled and shook his head at me. I immediately apologized and he told me it was ok, he knew me. Whew!
If you are a fixer, like me, you must be very well aware of this tendency. In networking you will meet lots of people and your radar may go into overdrive. This is a time that you must stop and reign in it, think about if people are truly wanting help, asking for help, simply giving a speech or trying to make small talk. Don’t waste your powers in unwanted woods.
Another important point is to realize why you are poaching. Is it truly to help someone else or is there a desired result that you personally want? This is very prominent in dating. Men think women want to change them; honestly we don’t – it is just some stupid unconscious action. Kind of like baseball players grabbing their jewels and spitting. They don’t even realize they are doing it, they just do it in the course of the game. Same thing. But we grow out of it or at least it lessens over time, eventually.
My point is, if you know someone who is going through a transition or difficult time you may want to help them because you care and therefore you offer assistance in every manner at every opportunity. But beware – they may not want you help period.
They may not be ready to accept the help or maybe they just want to do it on their own. Whatever the reason, just back off and let your friend be. Letting them know that you are there for them and if they need you that you are there in a heartbeat is enough. If they choose to let you help great, but it is their choice. If not, don’t take it personally. They are not saying they do not want you to be a part of your life; they just don’t want you poaching in their woods.
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.