What do you do when someone (whether a significant other, family member, friend or colleague) comes to you with a problem?
If you’re like me, your first instinct is probably to offer a solution.
However, in many instances, the more appropriate response is to support the person, not solve the problem.
Often their interests may best be served by simply providing a space to vent, a sympathetic ear or a friendly shoulder.
Other times, the most helpful thing is to give them a slight nudge in a different direction, fill in a missing piece of the puzzle, connect them with a useful resource or ask astute questions to generate an insight that changes their thinking.
By taking this approach, you encourage self-reliance and promote self-esteem, and also model behavior that they, in turn, can use with others, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of confidence and empowerment.
Consider the old adage, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Recognizing when to support and when to solve takes empathy – the ability to understand someone else’s perspective and to appreciate that their thoughts, feelings and needs may be different than your own.