“Don’t get in the boat with them!” I stop and say this to many of my clients and friends.  Of course, they look at me like I’m mad.

I say this when they tell me about a situation they are facing, such as, the demise of their sister’s marriage, or the diagnose of a parent with a life altering disease, or their son’s loss of a job, or any of the thousand of other situations people face in their lifetime. Being a human is not for pansies. It’s hard, upsetting, and we are touched by the struggles of those we love; but we need to stop the craziness of getting in the boat with them!

I have a friend who lives from her heart. She feels deeply about almost everything. But it’s a double edge sword for her and for those of us she loves.  When she feels so deeply she gets depressed, sad, angry, overprotective, smothering, overly helpful, and all the array of actions and feelings that can consume her and the person her attention is on.

She is the first one to get in the boat with you!  She’ll shimmy up to you and mirror your feelings; she’ll cry with you and hand you Kleenex. She’ll listen to you rant than rant with you. She’ll validate your views regardless if those views are limited. She’ll be available to help you (make you food, clean your house, drive you to appointments, etc.) you think you’ll smother from her help; because she is in the boat with you.

People who get in the boat with you do it because they think they are helping.

For someone who is suffering, you welcome them getting in the boat with you, but it’s not what you really need. Maybe the boat is already full of other ‘helpful people’ so much so that the person who is really dealing with the situations jumps ship and swims away from all these ‘boat people’.

Here’s the blunt truth: most people who get in the boat with you are doing it for themselves and not for you. They don’t realize it, just like my friend didn’t. She was hurt when I said this. She argued and cried ‘How could you think I could that?.’ The point was not to hurt her, but to give her some perspective as to why people are motivated to do the things they do.

We are motivated by something in us, a need that WE have.  My friend actually hurts when someone she loves hurts. It’s HER hurt she’s trying to stop and she does that by getting in the boat with you. She didn’t realize it, but it’s to stop her pain and the bonus is it might help stop your pain, too.  After she got over the sting of my words, we talked out how she feels about hurt; she realized I was right. She physically and emotionally feels the pain of other’s hurt.

Then I said, “Wouldn’t you be more help if you stood on the shore and called out to the person floating aimlessly in the boat?  Call them supportive words of encouragement for them to get back to shore by giving them insight to ways to solve the problem they find themselves in? Wouldn’t that be more helpful than anything?”

People who are hurt and shocked by a divorce, illness, or loss are not thinking correctly. They are overwhelmed; they are in their boat without oars and floating by the wave of emotion. They need friends standing on the shore who can think clearly and see options, opportunities, and solutions. They need someone to have a bigger perspective on the events to help them find their power and control in the situation. THAT’S WHAT THEY REALLY NEED.

Compassion and understanding are fine first reactions to our friends and loved ones. Thoughtful ‘option thinking’ is the gift. I’m not suggesting you to TELL the person what to do because that takes away their power, too. Ideas to possible roads to solving the issue or getting their ‘head around the situation’ is what they really need.

Just ask yourself this, “Are you in the boat with them or are you on the shore?”

Did you ever see this might be something that you have a tendency to do? Or do you know of someone that does this?  Please share your experiences, I’d love to know.

[and be sure to share with others who might need to hear this message]

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