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How often do you fall into self-doubt, or into a place where you’re doubting others?

When someone relates to you an issue that’s challenging them, or problem they’re facing, how do you respond? Do you respond in a knee-jerk fashion that communicates, “The way forward lies in my advice?”.

When someone is experiencing painful feelings, how do you react? Do you robotically assume that the person will never be able to deal with their feelings successfully by themself? Do you assume that it’s not OK for this person to feel what they’re feeling?

When a person takes responsibility for forwarding the action of their life, what is your response? Do you ever feel that they’re not capable of taking responsibility, or moving forward? In other words, do you assume that it’s your responsibility to “save” that person, to keep them from failing?

And, with respect to yourself, how do you react when you encounter a problem, a challenge, a feeling or the thought that you need to assume responsibility for yourself?

Believing in self and others

The question here is, do I believe in myself and others? Do I allow others to have their power, capabilities, and capacities? Or, rather, do I give power and energy to the problem, the feeling or the irresponsibility?

It’s important for us to be aware, to be conscious and to be alert about how we respond both to ourselves and others. It’s important that we check ourselves out and learn to think before we respond. For example, “I’m sorry you’re experiencing (what you’re experiencing – the problem, the feeling…). I know you can find a solution that will serve you. It sounds like you’re experiencing some deep feelings. I believe you can work through them.”

Each of us is responsible for our own self. This does not mean that we ignore or dismiss others. It does not mean that we don’t care about others. What it does mean is that we care and love others, and support others and ourselves in ways that work.

Listening to fix

One behavior many of us are guilty of occurs when we hear of another’s challenge and we morph into a “listening to fix” syndrome. When this syndrome is activated, we might respond to another’s comment by saying, “Why don’t you (follow my suggestion, take my advice and the like)?” i.e., the need to prescribe to, or “fix” someone.

To believe in others, in their abilities and capacities to think, feel, and find solutions and take care of themselves is a gift we can give and receive.

The antidote – awareness

A first step toward becoming free of our “listening to fix” filter is to become aware of it. Many of us have a flavor of this “need to fix” listening filter. It may also be that we engage in this listening filter with certain people or in certain situations. For example, you might “listen to fix” with your spouse or partner, co-workers, direct reports, parents, friends, or neighbors, etc.

The moment you become aware that you’re listening through a filter during a conversation, your awareness expands beyond the filter. It’s like consciously removing the filter that covers your ears. You can then “hear” what other people are actually saying. As you “hear” what other people are saying, you can better relate to their experience and engage with another on a higher level of true and real connectivity. At work, for example, you might even “hear” another as a “person” rather than a “function.”

As your awareness expands beyond your “listening to fix” filter, you can also make new communication choices. For example, you might respond to “I’m feeling upset right now.” with, “I hear that you’re feeling upset. How are you experiencing that right now?” or “What’s that like for you?” or “Can you say more about that?” These kinds of filter-free communications can meet the other person’s experience and open the door for the conversation to evolve in new ways, rather than as a “fixer.”

So, be gentle with yourself and give yourself plenty of time to discover and work with this listening filter. Make it a game to notice this filter, love and appreciate yourself for having it and explore the ways you can shift out of it. If you’re like me, when you do this, you may experience true and real “hearing” for the first time.

Consider the following “fixing” filters and be curious if you use one or more of them in your conversations: (when/if you do, there is no way you can be truly and sincerely “present” with the other person):
“advising”: “I think you should…” “How come you didn’t?”
“educating”: “This could work out very well for you if you…”
“shutting down”: “Don’t worry about it; cheer up!”
“interrogating”: “Well, why did you…”
“explaining”: “What I would have done is…” (also “hijacking”)

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Would your closest friends say you’re a good listener? How so?
  • Can you think of a recent conversation where your “listening to fix” filter was engaged? What was that like?
  • Do you know someone who listens to you without attempting to fix you? What is that like?
  • Can you remember some of your earliest childhood experiences with either wanting to fix someone or someone wanting to fix you? 
  • Did your parents or primary caregivers listen to you with a “listening to fix” filters How so?

(c) 2021, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

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