The idea he presents that we have mutable values, and that we must, to grow, work actively to assess and adjust them is new, obvious, and so compelling.
With that in mind, I present a brief consideration of one of my values. I have been feeling more stress in my life recently than I ever recall feeling and I find myself imagining coping solutions that seem out of reach.
But what if coping was within reach right now?
So first here’s the value that I think needs to be refactored so that I can feel more available to be kind and thoughtful and energetic:
I seem to believe that I have to offer an opinion to a problem. That when there is a problem, I have to reflect and think hard and well on how to solve the problem.
But frequently I’m left feeling unfulfilled by acting on this value. There is friction between my intention and the outcome.
So I wonder: How can I bring less engagement to other people’s decisions and problems? How can I not care while still doing a good job, being a caring partner, or at very least helping to make general circumstances bearable?
So yes, I feel that I should offer help to others in the form of ideas when they explicitly or implicitly ask for it.
Does this approach guide me better than alternate values?
I do not know, actually, because the above approach is so reflexive. I suspect my stress levels could go down if I stopped caring about other people’s problems. But that’s not particularly in line with my values that tell me to be kind or engaged with the people in my life.
But let’s think through this, even if crudely.
What if I created a more reflective approach to take on internally before I speak:
- Is this my problem? do I have to solve this? Basic coping.
- If not, are side effects of it going to be my problem with high confidence?
- If not, why would I care to help solve this? Is the person wrestling with this problem incapable? Have they exhausted their options? Have they explicitly asked for my help?
- If I’m thinking that “offering earnest advice is helpful and friendly and good”, when people are discussing a problem, consider how often I take others’ earnest advice. not much. so is it really a generous thing to offer? will the other party really not be able to solve their problem without my advice?
- Could I refocus on the art of question asking?
Questions could help others solve their problem. I get to feel helpful and they get to feel agency over their problems and we are both engaged in solving a problem. And I get the side benefit of learning to ask better questions, which I find admirable in others who do it well as it really provokes me to think more deeply or more creatively.
What are some feelings I’ve had in the past from acting on this reflexive approach?
Instead of asking questions, I offered much solutioning and this is what I’ve experienced:
- I feel ashamed and embarrassed that when I offer too much advice I appear overbearing and bossy and a know-it-all.
- I feel worried that others under my influence are not learning to solve their problems effectively.
But I keep doing it because I have a reflex that tells me it is important to be helpful. This earnest helpfulness is from my mother, the advice-giving as a part of that helpfulness.
So…what to do?
- How can I learn to not offer advice, and consequently (hopefully) take on less burden-of-worry from others’ problems?
- How does one begin to incorporate new values into their life?
- How does one even remember to do this? I get so full of information that I forget to practice my intentions.
I don’t know yet. I’ll try to practice, read little, and let you know.
I’m noticing that I have another value relation to social solution-making, and my current stressors: complaining is boring to listen to, unless it is a shared concern. If people complain near me, I want to solution the complaining away.
It’s been historically unlikely for me that the topic of complaint will offer much in the way of cultivating any kind of interesting conversation. Instead, I’ve found complaining to be like the other side of the coin of boasting. Both are so tedious in any dose but miniscule.
So I need to grapple at some moment about how I deal with the social problem of “being forced” to listen to others’ fretting, hand-wringing, belly-aching, moping, and so on. Do I really have to? At what cost do I avoid “listening” to this? Is the cost of not listening worth the price of seeming cold or uncaring, especially when I tell myself that I value being warm and engaged with people?
And is it the complaining that I dislike, or are there other behaviors mixed in that I’m responding to?