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A Problem Shared

December 9, 2011

“I’m here if you need to talk…” ah, where would we be without the support of our friends? They’ll sit and listen as we ‘offload’ all sorts of stuff, nod their heads in agreement about just how awful it all is and generally be there for us to offer empathy, comfort and reassurance – and let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of empathy, comfort and reassurance when we’re in the middle of a problem?

A problem shared is a problem halved according to the well-known saying but is it actually true?

Feeling ‘heard’ by someone who cares can sometimes be all we need but what about when we have a problem we want to SOLVE for ourselves – what then? That’s where I’m not convinced that a problem shared with friends is a problem halved and here’s why.

  • As soon as you share your problems you risk being swept along by their fears, anxieties and experiences which are never an accurate reflection of your own.
  • Although they aren’t even aware of it, your friends have a vested interest in you staying the same as them and not upsetting the status quo with radical new thoughts of change! Someone with a vested interest in you staying the same can’t really be called ‘impartial’!
  • YOU are unique – as is your situation, your values and what you want, so no-one else’s ‘solution’ is ever likely to really fit you. “If I were you….”  is a commonly used phrase but that’s just it – they are NOT you! No matter how well-intentioned, you don’t really want someone else telling you what to do… just because it worked for them doesn’t mean it will work for you!

So for these reasons, if you have an important issue you want to solve, think carefully before you share it with your well-meaning friends. A problem shared only becomes less of a problem when you share it with the RIGHT person – someone who can effectively listen to you without criticism or judgement and who will combine the support you require with personal accountability

Now some of you might well be saying “you’re a coach, you would say that, wouldn’t you!” And of course that’s true but I say it because I know there are still people out there who mistakenly think of a coach as a ‘paid friend’ and do not appreciate the crucial differences between the relationship you have with your friend and the one you have with your coach.

I love and respect each and every one of my friends and value being able to turn to them when I need to share and offload (you know who you are!) because sometimes just saying thoughts or worries out loud really does help… but when I’ve wanted to make big changes, I’ve only made real progress with someone impartial who I could trust. So, next time you wonder who to speak to about issues in your life you’re unclear about, I invite you to firstly question precisely what sort of support you’re looking for – if it’s some moral support, somewhere to offload or a shoulder to cry on, call your friends, you’ll undoubtedly feel all the better for it. If however, it’s something that would be better served by working in a safe, objective space with someone with a proven track-record in helping people access their own resources to enable them to find and implement their own solutions, hiring a Coach might just be the way to go.

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