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  • Writer's pictureP.E.T. South Africa

How solving other people's problems can make matters worse

Updated: Nov 13, 2018

Problems. We all have them. What one person sees as a problem can seem like a minor issue to someone else. In short, we all have problems but unique from those of others.

When someone is experiencing a problem that you might not see or feel as seriously or intensely as they do, you will most likely feel inclined or eager to 'help' - by offering advice or providing a solution to their problem. But be warned, if you weren't asked to give input, you could be causing more harm to your relationship than good.

Sounds complicated, right? But here are three reasons why your good intentions could have adverse consequences:

Solving someone else's problem can lead to resistance or retaliation

Have you ever tried to advise a person experiencing a problem, and the next moment they’re biting your head off? It is most likely that the person experiencing the problem isn't seeking an answer or a solution, but instead an empathetic ear to listen to what they have to say. By giving them a solution, you could be causing them even more annoyance, anger, sadness, or feeling judged, and chances are they will become defensive.

In a situation like this, your role is quite easy - keep quiet and listen. Only respond when asked, and even then only respond by acknowledging the emotion you hear: "It sounds like you are very confused and unsure about what to do." If you manage to do this correctly, the chances are that they will open up even more and eventually solve their own problem.

Solving someone else's problem can rob them of personal growth

Think about the sense of accomplishment you felt the last time you solved your own problem. Every problem we encounter in life awards us with an opportunity of growth. We need to learn how to effectively deal with problems to move forward in our relationships and life.

So, next time you find it on the tip of your tongue to say "I know exactly what you mean...” bite it! Because the chances are that the rest of that sentence will take complete ownership of the other person's problem and rob them of an opportunity to grow.

Solving someone else's problem could lead to dependency

Being a constant hero in someone else's life will eventually chain you to that label. A person could become reliant on you to save him/her from all of their problems, leaving you with little time and energy to battle your own villains.

A practical example; a friend who doesn't have a driver's license. You offer to pick him/her up once or twice, and before you know it, you can add chauffeur to your resume.

Instead of solving their problem, try to actively listen to what they are saying and give it back to them: "I can hear that you are incredibly frustrated with not being able to get yourself to places." The penny, and hopefully the fear of missing out will motivate them to take action soon enough.

"There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” so when you teach people to fish, they’ll be able to feed themselves. And effective parents, teachers, and leaders all use that principle to instill competency in their children, students, and workers." - Dr Thomas Gordon

Don't beat yourself up! It is incredibly difficult trying not to solve other people’s problems - especially when it comes to the people closest to you. Set it as a challenge for yourself, and we promise you will reap the rewards in little to no time.


Disclaimer: The information contained in this communication is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult a professional on any medical or psychological concerns. The articles and blogs are posted only as opinion or ideas, and are general in nature. The administrator takes no responsibility for any action or outcome a reader may make as a result of reading a post.

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