Recently one of my sisters shared some troubling news with me and I was very supportive (at the time). A few days later, I began to offer suggestions to her on how she could remedy the situation. I further went on to tell her how she could have avoided the situation all together. Naturally she responded curtly to me and proceeded to give me all the reasons that my suggestions would not work for her. I perceived her push back as excuses and continued to push.
Finally she gave me a nice firm ‘check’ that shut my mouth. She explained that I was ‘judging’ her by standards that were not her own, but mine. She explained that I was not considering that she might have limitations that I don’t. As I started to think about her plight as a single mother, having recently separated and relocated…it started to wash over me. She had been going through a lot, and was just not able to stop the train wreck. Emotionally, she had done what she could. Now granted I BELIEVE I would have handled things differently, but honestly…its just a theory, I have no idea EXACTLY what I would have done.
Later, I took the time to process our conversation and realized that my sister was in need of SUPPORT not SOLUTIONS. Now that may have been obvious to many readers from the jump. But not me, I just don’t have very high interpersonal intelligence. While I have worked on it for years, it doesn’t come naturally. I am ‘results’ oriented. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the problem (other than a clear understanding). I’d much rather focus on the solution and the path for results. I’ve been told that is a very masculine approach to problems…who knows if its masculine or feminine, its still MY way.
I would LOVE to say that I have learned my lesson about having strong opinions on everything and offering advice. But that is not likely to change. What I AM learning to do is to ask a SAFEGUARD QUESTION: ”Are you venting or do you want my opinion or input?”. My sister informed me that she usually doesn’t come to anyone for solutions, she is more of a venter. Well now that I know that about her, I will offer support rather than suggestions. But it did make me wonder how many times I might have done that to my significant other. How many times did I seek to satisfy my OWN desire to communicate, putting their desire to be heard secondary?
I’m also one that LIKES opinions and input of others. It challenges me to see other perspectives and expand my knowledge base. So I naturally assumed that others want the same. WRONG!! We all know that opinions are plentiful. But in this case I realized that JAI STONE was the a-hole. My two cents didn’t add up to much at all.
For the record, the next day I apologized to my sister and she accepted. My relationships are highly valuable to me. I needed to be sure that I had not damaged the safe space that I fought hard to create. So now lets see if my safeguard question will start to work for me. Stay tuned!