How To Truly Fix People (Jordan B. Peterson)

You may ask or hear asked,

‘How can I help my parents, friend or peers sort themselves out?’


‘How do I fix someone I care about?’

“The first question should be, do they want to sort themselves out? Because it’s not that easy to help people if they don’t want to be helped. If they do want to be helped, listening is a great first strategy.”

“You have the question right if you’re asking ‘how do I x to sort themselves out, which is very different than how can I sort my parents out.”

“You help people to sort themselves out ONCE they’ve decided to do so by giving them the opportunity to talk about their concerns and outline potential solutions.”

“Moreover, if you listen to someone come up with a solution on your behalf, you don’t undergo the neurological transformations necessary to change your character. But if you come up with the solutions yourself, then you’ve changed your own character in a way that increases the probability that you’re going to act out what you do. And that requires real patience to allow people to stumble through to their own problem solutions.”

Someone might lay out a set of problems and you might think,

‘Oh my god I know what you could do about that.’

But it doesn’t really matter if you know.

“It’s not that advice isn’t helpful. Sometimes you need to give someone a hint. But you need to be careful about the element of theft that’s associated with solving peoples problems for them.”

Let’s say you came to me with a variety of problems and I answer,

‘Here’s what you could do about that.’

“Then you went out and did what I offered as advice, and it worked. But in some sense that’s not your accomplishment (it is in the sense that you implemented it), but it’s not insofar as it was something that I structured and intimated. The true delight and responsibility in success was partly stolen from you by well meaning advice.” This will likely and often interfere with the probability that you’ll implement the solution yourself. Thus it’s best to let people talk through their own problems.

So you ask,

‘What’s the problem?’

‘What do you think that’s not right about your life?’

They try and get it off their chest and you encourage them to because that’s what a good friend and attentive listener does.

Understand: “If someone close to you has some things to complain about (undoubtedly they do) they’re going to complain about a lot more things than they’re actually upset about. They’ll have gathered up unspoken irritations, aggravations and fears which will upset them emotionally. But until they articulate them they won’t know exactly what they’re truly upset about.”

“Part of the process of laying your cards out on the table is that you have a bunch of complex situations that are distributing you and you don’t know what they are exactly, you have to kind of guess. So you guess.”

‘It might be this…it might be might be you.’

“If you’re listening to all that you have to be patient and let the person get all their emotional cards out on the table. Even if that involves some accusations about you, which you don’t have to immediately jump to the conclusion that those accusations are accurate or that you have to defend yourself.”

“Once the person has laid out their deck of complaints, the first thing you’ll find is they will take the majority of the cards off the table right away because once they’ve articulated out those concerns they’ll find they aren’t really the issue, which leaves a smaller number of genuine problems.”

Then you ask the person,

‘Can you think of any way how things could be better in relationship to that problem, what would a solution look like?’

They might say,

‘I don’t know…’

“Then they have to guess and lay their cards on the table about potential solutions might look like. If they say ‘I don’t know’ it often means, they don’t want to think about it so a little bit of healthy encouragement and pressure may be in order.”

“But you want people to formulate a vision of what the situation would look like if the problem was solved. Then they might find it very daunting because the solution looks so difficult that they don’t see any pathway to it.”

The next part of the solution is to ask,

‘Are there some things that you could do that would be small steps that you would be interested in doing — that you think you would do, that would move you closer towards the solution?’

Behavioural psychologists call this ‘collaborative empiricism’ where you’ll negotiate the beginnings of a solution.

‘What could you do this week, or today that might make that problem slightly better?’

“You implement it, see if it worked and if it had the desired solution?”

“If it didn’t work, then there’s the opportunity for renegotiation.”

“If it did, you keep building small blocks on top of that.”

Self reflective writings & book summaries on philosophy, psychology and human behaviour.

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