Do you find yourself wanting to fix people?

In this blog, Nicola Harker (Psychologies Ambassador) explores the concept of Equanimity, and how it can free us all from the desire to fix.

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Recently I’ve been reflecting on the key lessons that have helped me to take my life-leap.  I’m now nearly 2 years since leaving my job as a GP, and I’m loving it!

You may have seen me posting on my facebook page this week about “Equanimity” – the idea that we can be supportive and compassionate towards people around us, but we don’t control the outcome.  For example, we can offer supportive advice, but ultimately another individual is on their own path in life, and may choose not to accept our advice.

This has been a useful skill that has helped me to make big changes in my life.  As a GP I used to spend my whole day listening to other people, assimilating the information, and suggesting a plan of action.  I thought I was fairly good at involving my patients in decision making, but under time pressure I would usually quickly form an opinion, and then set about mapping out the course of action.

As I’ve stepped back and reflected, I’ve realised how often I haven’t given credit to others for their own thinking.  It’s easy to assume that our own solutions are the best ones.  But what if they are not?

Equanimity reminds us that we each have capacity within ourselves to do our own best thinking.  We each know our own choices and our private needs.  It is very difficult for someone else to know what is best for us.  Which is why the best solutions come from within.

As a coach, my role is to listen, to challenge, and ultimately to help my clients to find their own best solutions.  It’s very effective.  I started to realise that in my personal life, the best solutions come if I sit back and don’t try to fix.  But if we’ve never behaved like this, how do we start to make that change?  Here are my 3 steps to developing equanimity:

  1.  Listening.  Deeply attentive listening, that isn’t about preparing our response, but listening to fully understand.  When we are with someone we care about, and talking about something difficult, it’s easy to start formulating solutions before we’ve heard the full story.  We tell ourselves it’s quicker, but actually if we get the full picture first, we don’t jump in with assumptions and inappropriate suggestions.  So the next time you are with someone, just try relaxing, and listening deeply to what they have to say, until they have told you everything they need to tell.  You may just find they have found the solution without you having to say anything!
  2. Asking.  “What do you think?” isn’t a sign of weakness.  It shows you are interested in someone else’s point of view.  This simple question opens up possibilities and ideas, and often the solutions are quite different from those you first imagined.
  3. Trusting.  Look around you.  We are all humans who want to be loved.  We all struggle at times.  We are all innately capable.  When we learn to trust that we each have capacity to make our own best decisions, you realise that you don’t need to always be in control of outcomes.  If you have concerns someone is making a big mistake, give them time to explore their thinking out loud, unchallenged, and see whether their plan meet their own logical reasoning.  If you’re still concerned, it’s then fine to ask them whether your concerns are valid. 

(Note to parents – equanimity doesn’t mean relinquishing responsibility, and I’m not suggesting we don’t keep our children safe.  But sometimes our desire to teach our children can overlap into trying to control their thinking, which is where equanimity may be helpful.)

  Perhaps this blog can provide some inspiration.  The next time someone you know is struggling, see what happens if you deeply listen, without trying to fix.  Let me know how you get on!

Nicola Harker

Coach and Mentor (ex-doctor) and teacher of Self-Compassion, Nicola Harker Coaching

Using neuroscience, self-compassion techniques and coaching as well as high-performance techniques I help my clients free their potential and get back to their true selves so that they can thrive in life.