Me and Fixer are friends. We are talking.
Me: “My nephew just failed his final university exams. I don’t get it. He’s always had a 3.6 GPA. The Faculty Dean says he…”
Fixer: “Oh my gosh, he failed?! His final exams? Oh my gosh, okay don’t freak out. My uncle is a partner at a law firm, I’m sure he can help him get a job.”
What do you think of that response? Anyway, next week Fixer and I meet up again.
Me: “I just came back from the hospital. It doesn’t look good. They think my grandmother might have canc..”
Fixer: “I REBUKE THAT RIGHT NOW! Cancer must BOW to Jesus! Oya come, come, come. Pastor Ugochukwo has just released a new line of fresh anointing oil, it even comes from organic olives. Let us go and get it now!”
Are you seeing the trend? Okay the next time:
Me: “I think my boyfriend might be cheating on me. I was going through…”
Fixer: “What?! GIIIIIRRRRRLLL LEAVE HIM! DUMP THAT LYING BUM! HE DON’T DESERVE YOU! Honestly the moment I met him I just knew, I just knew there was something about him.”
It’s usually more nuanced than this but what I’m trying to point out is the automatic impulse to spring up and fix everything without listening to the problem. Fixers are not people who always provide bad solutions, sometimes their solutions are correct and their hearts are usually in the right place. However, sometimes people just want to talk to you because you’re a friend not because you have all the answers.
Here are four issues with the ‘fixer’ mentality:
- We may be offering solutions that nobody was asking for.
People don’t always need some verbal panacea, some profound platitude, or even powerful preaching. Yes, a problem shared may be a problem half-solved but sometimes the solution does not include instructions or information. The solution may just be communication, venting out emotions, thinking through the situation by speaking out. Sometimes you need to just be there to listen. Be present but be quiet.
- We are desperate to feel more in control.
There is a vicarious pain that comes when the people we love are hurting. And when we feel pain that affects us emotionally without affecting us directly, it can bring about a sense of powerlessness. And so becoming a ‘fixer’ becomes this reflex response where we’re throwing out all the solutions we can think of in an attempt to break through the limitations that life has caged us in.
I think it takes a lot of bravery to share in people’s pain knowing full well that you can’t control the pain, you can’t fix it.
Be comforted in this: you don’t always need to.
- We may be trivializing pain.
Getting some fresh air doesn’t always cure depression. Working harder doesn’t always result in a promotion. Being non-confrontational doesn’t always prevent police brutality. Simple answers don’t always fix complex problems.
When we are self-centred, we believe that the magnitude of our problems easily overshadow those of everyone else’s. We think our problems are valid, meaningful, worth listening to. But other people’s problems are self-inflicted, simple, easy to cure. So we end up offering common-sense solutions that everybody else has already offered, implying that people’s real-life struggles are just minor problems that we would have sorted out a long time ago if we were in their shoes.
Sometimes people do exaggerate their problems and you will need to interrupt their pity party to dish out the truth. But saying ‘Your problems are not important’ is not as effective as listening for a while and then reminding them ‘You are too important for this to be this big of a problem’
- We may be labelling people.
People going through a hard time are still people. They have stories and hobbies and journeys and idiosyncrasies and a million things that make them special and unique and worth it. Sometimes when we’re so focused on fixing a problem, we only zoom in on that aspect of a person’s life.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for fixers. There are some people that I would go to if I just wanted help with sorting something out, but I wouldn’t go to them if I just wanted to talk. My closest friends are those who can tell when to just listen and when to get up and help, those who know that they don’t need to fix things to be needed.