Fixers Anonymous or How to let things be.

Unsolicited advice – one of those things many can’t resist offering but that personally, I often hate receiving. Whether it’s about practical stuff like DIY or something personal like a relationship issue, it seems there’s always someone ready to stick their beak in. I think it grinds my gears because I’m not sharing my life to be picked over and corrected. I’m just speaking to feel like the other person gets me.

I once met someone who shared details of a chronic medical issue but what really exhausted them were do-gooders piping up with their ‘have you tried’s and ‘what about this’ing when all they wanted was to have room to speak about their experiences without a deluge of suggestions from non-medical professionals! 

Of course, people are just trying to be helpful but actually, defaulting to advice-giving can often be more about the giver of the advice than the receiver. How do I know? Well, full disclose, I am a perennial giver of unsolicited advice. I often can’t help myself. I see something I believe I can fix, help or make better and think, who wouldn’t want that, right? 

I used to do it all the time but as I became aware of how irritating it was to me, I realised what effect me doing it must be having on other people. I started to question the impulse that caused me to do it and wondered if, our need-to-fix comes not just from wanting to help but an inability to sit with the discomfort of the imperfect. Perhaps that’s why their* are so many grammar police?? *leeeeave it

And even more concerning, I think fixers find it incredibly uncomfortable to be with a loved one’s pain, unbearable even, and so to salve ourselves we offer solutions. But one thing I’ve learned, on my bleakest days around mental health – ‘solutions’ never made me feel better. In my deepest despair, what I didn’t want was to be told to ‘go for a walk’, ‘look on the bright side,’ or ‘remember how fortunate I am’.

Though it’s coming from love, it can leave the recipient feeling unseen and alone. The truth is, it’s ok for people to experience dark moments, after all, darkness is what comes before the dawn. Obviously, you don’t want to leave them lost in this space but equally there’s no need to rush the sunrise. 

And by the way, I’m not saying we shouldn’t give advice, whether it’s been asked for or not. I’ve been offered amazing advice that I hadn’t known I’d needed and received recommendations that have been invaluable. The difference, however, is that in those instances the other person listened intently first. They took in where I was at then spoke from an informed place. They didn’t tell me what I should be doing, what I’ve done wrong or how they did it better. They made a contribution rather than an imposition and therefore it landed in a different way. 

Giving advice is a skill and frankly should come with a big dose of humility given that often, we only know what we know because of past fuck ups.

So now, I’m about trying to practice restraint. Not just to not be a hypocrite but because I want people I care about to feel seen rather than fixed – because they’re not broken. 

Years ago, I briefly volunteered for the Samaritans and whilst, in the end, it wasn’t a good fit, a big take-away was how their objective is not to give advice but to be with someone in their despair, to listen, understand and simply give them room to be and surely, that’s what we all need from time to time.

My podcast for the creative in you, Creative Sauce with Andi Osho has a new episode every Tuesday – come join the convo! Creative Sauce is on all the main podcast outlets: Apple, Spotify and Deezer. There’s more info over on Insta @CreativeSaucePod.

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