Have you ever been around someone who only sees what is wrong? Let me paint the picture.
At first they seem interested, caring even. They are masters at finding the problem, and if they are talented, oftentimes they are masters at solving the problem too. In business, this kind of person can be very effective, seeing clearly what areas need to be fixed, then pointing them out and suggesting ideas to streamline the problem.
However, far too often, this personality type goes home to the person who owns the problem and wreaks havoc on that person’s self-esteem. Frequently, as I listen to my private clients talk, I hear, “If Mom/Dad/husband/wife would just change _____ (insert their problem here), then everything would be great.” The following week, when things have shifted, “great” never comes. Other times, it sounds more like, “How come they can’t get it right?” The problem solver lingers in a constant state of disappointment and sadness, which then affects everyone they are around, until and unless they eventually turn the tables of problem solving on to themselves.
There is one more common pain that seems to linger for all chronic problem solvers (at least those with big hearts)—it seems as if no one understands where they are coming from. I hear it all the time. A client (who will go unnamed to protect their privacy) said, “My husband’s sister Susie just hates me. I try to help her out but she just snubs me. It’s been like this for years and I don’t know what to do.” I get it. I know it feels horrible when you can see that someone is upset, and it feels even worse when they direct it at you. Like this client, what has been happening with Susie also seems to happen with quite a few other people in their immediate circle of friends and family. She asked me, “What is their problem? Antiqua, all I want is peace.”
If you are gifted as a problem solver, then take my message to heart. You will feel a great sense of relief, more intimacy in your relationships, and more joy in your life. In the past three years, I have been closely examining this part of myself as well, because in a way we all have it. I am happy to say I have found a set of antidotes to this problem.
Nothing ever shifts until you are aware of it.
So, if you are a problem solver and it seems like no one understands you, or if over the next 24 hours you catch yourself effortlessly seeking out the problems to solve all around you, remember that awareness gives you power. Self-awareness is one of the golden keys to high esteem and self-trust. But how we tend to go about developing it seems to be turned upside down and backwards.
The antidotes to turning a misunderstood problem solver into a compassionate world changing agent are:
Antidote number one: You are a mirror to the world—all change begins as an inside job. Ask yourself: How do I see the world? How do I see the people around me? Do I assume the best in people or do I assume the worst?
A very easy way to figure out which way you think is to listen to yourself when you’re driving—do you call other drivers names and wish them ill thoughts or do you send them blessings?
I will give you an example. A friend and I were driving in a snowstorm the other day. Everyone who did not have their lights on got a lashing from my friend’s mouth. Now, I agree: it was dangerous to not have their lights on, but words and thoughts have power, and like boomerangs, they come back to you. So, as my friend insulted each driver, I asked Archangel Michael to protect them and remind them to turn on their lights. There is always a loving way to accomplish the same goal, which in this case, was to have the other drivers turn on their lights. I did this silently, so as not to insult the driver in my car, but nonetheless, with each insult and judgment she unleashed, I felt a wave of bad vibes wash through the car, which brings me to antidote number two.
Complaining is the #1 confidence killer of yourself—it keeps your vibe down and everyone else’s vibe down around you. Being a parent has helped me see the influence of complaints versus kind-teaching in action. For longer than I would like to admit, I think I was #1 in complaining and getting all up in a tizzy with my children. With each complaint, be it about their homework or their dirty room, I would see their confidence shrink. Your influence (complaining) keeps them feeling wrong, which in turn comes back to bite you—what goes around comes around. I would complain to my kids about whatever was going on and then in a day or two I would hear a comment like, “She doesn’t like me” or “I’m dumb.” Needless to say, this killed me and hurt my heart. So I took this lesson to heart and although I have had to take 100% responsibility for myself like never before, it has been worth it.
I get my kids to clean their rooms and do their homework, but instead of complaining, I make a suggestion and use compliments to promote the behaviors I want to increase in their lives rather than give any attention to those that I want to stop. The past week, I have been focusing this change of habit around their incessant fighting (they are 18 months apart and it shows). What I have done is put in the habit of catching myself repeating “Stop fighting…” 50 times a day. In its place I’ve started imprinting, “Alera, thank you for being so kind to your sister…Lilly that was so sweet…” while asking questions of the other like, “Lilly, wasn’t Alera a good sister just then?” and “Alera, isn’t Lilly thoughtful?” I am still solving the problem, but instead of making them wrong, I am pointing out how they are right.
This takes more effort on my part, because, like most of us, complaining is a natural habit, but by putting a lid on it, I am lowering my stress hormones, which will help me stay lean and happy as well as build the confidence in my children while training them to look at what is good…which leads me to antidote number three.
Choosing to view the world through a different lens—seeing the good in everything or seeing what is wrong in everything. There are two ways to solve a problem. The first is to point out the problem. If you are fixing machines or a computer program or a dishwasher, this is a fabulous way to solve a problem. If you are dealing with people, this way of going about it tends to cause pain, distance, and misunderstandings. Yet, you still have a problem and it still needs to be solved. Here is what you do. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself (or God) what strengths within the other person can you highlight that will help you solve your problem.
I want you to read that last sentence again because it is very important. The problem you see in others (unless they personally asked you to help solve their problem) is your problem with them. No matter how much their life would be better, they will not change until they want to. And no matter what you do, you cannot change anyone but yourself. But you can help them become aware of whatever it is you see. And if you do it lovingly, they will think they noticed it themselves, and with that awareness comes the power for them to change.
However, they may choose not to change, which brings us back to the fact that the problem is yours and the best way to solve it is to choose to see what is good in others. Creating this habit in your life will help you to create more acceptance in your own life while giving you the vantage point of seeing and expecting the best from other people. It has been said, “Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.” And one of my favorite from Zig Ziglar is, “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.”
The practice—you might have heard this one before. I did it for the first time about two years ago. All you do is put a hairband or rubber band on your wrist. Every time you are aware of your complaining or wrong-making, you snap the band and move it to the other wrist. You continue to do this for 40 days or until you have mastered and redirected your own problem-solving tendencies.
You will feel instant relief when you make the commitment to yourself to seek out the good in others and support them to be their best rather than witnessing what you see as faults and pointing them out. Instantly, you will notice more joy and love in your life, which will increase your health and lower your stress levels as well as bring you more friends along the way. People will feel seen and loved in your presence. Now that is a great legacy to leave.
Till next time,