Mouth, Ears, Hands, Feet
We often tend to rationalize and search for immediate fixes for a problem, but that’s just one way of dealing with a difficulty, especially in our close relationships with people we care about most.
Recently I came across a method which I believe provides a much more appropriate response when someone you care about wants to engage with you about a problem in their life.
Do you want me to solve the problem (talking, using my mouth)? Sometimes we want to speak, rationalize and work on finding a solution.
Do you want me to listen to you (with my ears)? Sometimes we just want to be heard out.
Do you want me to hug you (use my hands)? Sometimes we just need a warm human touch.
Do you want me to go away (with my feet) and leave you alone? Sometimes we honestly just want to be by ourselves.
Neil describes it in this way:
Not everyone wants a problem solved. But they may want the next problem solved. So, I’ll just be like “Hey, which do you want right now?” Do you need a hug? Okay, let’s hug. You just want me to hear you out and not try to fix it or solve it, I’ll do that. Because at different times, people need different things. You’d be like “I’m trying to help you, why are you getting so mad at me?”. It’s because they just want to be listened to. Or they want a hug.
The power of this method lies in its simplicity. If our close ones are familiar with the concept, they can use just one simple word to signal what they might need. Even when the other person is not familiar with the method, by just being aware of those alternatives, we can become more attuned, understanding and kind, both to our close ones and to ourselves.