Lifelong Learner Lesson No 4375:
What do people really expect when they talk to you about their problems?
Some people want advice or solution
Others need to verbalise their thoughts to help them make their own decision.
Some people need to share the burden to make it feel lighter.
Others want to transfer the burden to someone whom they know to take on the burden of others.
Some people are on a data gathering exercise, researching the listener as a subject, even after they have already come to a solution themselves. (What would s/he have done instead?)
Others need a second or third or fourth opinion and perspective in order to make the 'perfect' decision.
Some people simply need a reason to have a conversation with you.
Others need a broadcasting platform to make sure the message gets to the right target
Some people just want a witness to their suffering. They are okay to remain victims of their plight as long as others are aware how much they are suffering.
As the listener, before diving into redeemer mode, first decipher whether the issue raised is actually a problem.
Are they just narrating their experience to you that they are not really worried about? Not every moan is a problem.
Sometimes its even just an opportunistic humble brag.
"My husband/daughter is always flying from one country to another" may not mean that she is unhappy about it. She might be letting you know how well they are doing with their new important status as CEO etc.
"These gym clothes/trainers wear out so quickly" =Look how much I am keeping fit.
There is no problem!
Most people go on to make their own decision in the end, and whether you deem it right or ridiculous, it must be accepted as their decision as long as they have mental capacity.
This can be difficult to accept and can sometimes feel like a slap in the face of the potential fixer, erasing their saviour halo.
I am more aware of this dynamic in the course of my work where it is easier to dismiss after documentation of a patient's capacity.
I realise how much it comes into play in every day connections between friends, siblings, parents and children especially as the children grow older, and spouses.
I am learning to check myself, figure out my role and sometimes even ask directly what the other person really wants.
As for my own reasons for sharing my own problems, all or none of the above may or may not apply.