The old saying goes, “There are two types of people in the world…” and you fill it in with your own version. For me, that saying changes to “There are two types of people in the world: those who fix and those who help.”
I consider myself a fixer – I want to make things right. And when I can’t, sometimes I get angry. My SpeeEch coach’s husband had a second bout of cancer a few years back. I was so mad that I couldn’t fix it, that I baked three pans of homemade brownies as if that atoned my failure to cure cancer. (Yes, I’m mental. What else is new?)
But as I grow older, I realize that there is a big, big difference between being a helper and a fixer. A fixer doesn’t want to hear the whole problem or what the person is thinking – they just want to fix it. When I was getting over being suicidal, I had a former friend say, “I’m a fixer. And I’ll do anything just to make sure that doesn’t happen again.” While sweet, that wasn’t the answer I wanted or needed. I didn’t need a fixer. I needed a helper.
A helper listens. And they don’t want to come up with the answer, they want you to. This infuriated me when my parents, my advisor, my friends, wouldn’t say “Ann, do this.” Instead, they would say, “Here’s all the information I can give you. I can help you talk it out. But you need to decide.” In the end, I’m happy they did, because I make the best decisions for me, and no one else.
A helper is the best kind of friend there is. Sure, they don’t want to see you struggle or hurt, but they also know sometimes it is necessary to struggle, to hurt, in order to solve the problem. Helpers often ask guiding questions to help you realize just what you need to do. With one of my helper friends, he helped me to realize what I needed, more than anything, was to get away from a toxic friendship in order to return to happiness.
Are you a helper? A fixer? Some combination of both? What style do you prefer in your friends?