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the vowels of support

the bowels of society are great places for engineers. engineers have become an all too common occurrence in today’s society. they like to fix things. they build bridges. repair roads and erect buildings. all of these require discovering solutions in order to get things done.

sometimes people fall in to the role of an engineer when it comes to human relationships. they like to fix things or find solutions. someone talks about something going on in their life, some problem and the engineers start offering up solutions, suggestions and/or fixes. they start using phrases like, “have you thought about…?”, “have you considered…?”, “have you tried…?” all of these are attempted fixes to the problem or the situation.

unlike the “real world”, sometimes in the human world, please understand that some friends aren’t necessarily looking for solutions. sometimes they just want to share where they are at, to be heard or maybe receive commiseration. in those instances the work of engineer solves nothing and may even be detrimental to a friend.

what’s a person to do when engineering just won’t work? that’s were the vowels of support come into play, a-e-i-o and u. let’s take a look at the vowels of support.

imageaffirm– many times a friend just needs some reassurance to know that they are okay with where they are and who they are. let your friend know that their okay, that the situation they are in or feelings they are having are okay, that situation or feelings don’t make them bad, wrong or broken, and that you’re there for them.

emotional present– emotionally be there for your friend. they could be in a tough place. their emotions could be swinging wildly or maybe just swinging to an extreme. do not try to talk them out of their emotion with statements like. “I don’t think you’re that sad.” “don’t be mad.”, “calm down.” those could possibly make the situation worse. your attempt to talk them out of their emotions could be interpreted by your friend that somehow their emotion may be wrong or bad. that could set then off even more. your emotional presence may be the best thing for the situation.

inquirer– ask questions that will help them better understand their situation or better process their emotions. this is not a free ticket to let the engineer run wild. that may not help your friend. avoid, questions like”what do you think would make things better?”, “can you think of a way out?” ask probing questions that help them process the problem. for example, “tell me more about the situation/feeling?”, on a scale from 1-10, how strong is it?”, “have you ever been in a similar situation? tell me about it. how is it similar/different than before.”

don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or for more information. if something comes across as confusing ask questions to clear the confusion. if there isn’t enough information, ask for more information. if something comes across as unexpected ask questions to make sure that you understand things correctly. this will help you better understand what is going on and may also help your friend clarify things for themselves.

it is valid and valuable question to ask,”what can i do for you?” keep in mind, if your friend is in a bad spot, they may answer,”i don’t know.” that leads us to the next vowel.

imageopen minded– have an open mind about what your friend is experiencing. you haven’t ever been in that same position and likely your friend hasn’t been in that exact same position, either. don’t think you have to have all the answers. be flexible because there could be a quick change to the better or the worse. the open mind helps to better handle what ever comes your way.

understand– this is two fold. make inquiries that give you a better understanding of what is going on. these very questions that offer you more understanding may have the side-effect of furthering your friend’s understanding for themselves.

the second part of understanding works as a type of comfort. sometimes it can be helpful for a friend to be recognized for the hard place they are in. let them know that you realize that they are in a tough place and you’re there for them and will help them to the best of your ability.

if the vowels of support seem foreign to you, you have some leaning towards engineering. you’re in good company; most of society falls into that class. i consider myself as pretty knowledgeable with the vowels but even i often have to make an effort to contain my engineering spirit. engineers will have to make more of an effort to use the vowels. think of it as learning a new language, the language of support. it may not come easy, but by doing it you will express a new and often needed type of support and love.

imageif you found yourself nodding to the vowels of support, saying,”yep, there are many times that would be helpful,” then i’m preaching to the choir. these then come more naturally but you will need to practice them to use them most effectively.

also, just because you know the vowels of support doesn’t mean the people who support you know the vowels. do some self care and share the vowels with your supporters. in doing so, you will be more likely to get the support you want. in the end, that will bring you closer to working through your difficult situations and emotions.

let’s face it, just like many things in life, it comes down to balance. some of your friends may have a heavy leaning towards engineering; others of your friends will lean tow ares wanting the vowels of support. by finding what works best for your friends and making an effort to match their needs, your friend will feel more completely supported. in my book, that’s a good thing for anyone.

the vowels of support

  • a- affirm
  • e- emotionally present
  • i- inquiry
  • o– open minded
  • u- understand

22 thoughts on “the vowels of support

  1. the-reluctant-parent

    another great post.

    My wife likes to fix things as well so she is definitely in the class of the engineer type for sure.

    I’m an artist so I’m more emotional and detail oriented and she’s more bit picture in her orientation. In so many ways we’re opposites.

    1. bipolarsojourner Post author

      gee, that pretty rare, two husbands that “out feel” their wives. you and me that is. I don’t know if you know of men are from mars, woman are from venus. in that book the men are the fixers and the women are the apathetic ones. i’m on the wrong planet since i’m on the planet inside of earth’s orbit.

    1. bipolarsojourner Post author

      after years of dealing “life engineers” and feeling unfulfilled, i wondered why fixes/solutions/suggestions generated anything from feelings of guarded to anger. it finally donned on me that i didn’t necessarily want a fix/solution/suggestion. this sums up the result.

  2. vanbytheriver

    Fabulous. I’ve watched the frustration of my engineer husband for over 40 years now…wishing he could just “fix” me. Sometimes, logic just doesn’t work. Nice post. Van

    1. bipolarsojourner Post author

      I can feel for you. though we are a bit more than half as far as your coupleship, my wife often tries to “solve” my life situations and struggles. i leave feeling frustrated because i feel unheard.

      something the engineers don’t understand is the vowels of support can lead to a “fix”. by using the vowels, one can fill whole again. feeling whole is far better and quicker path to wellness than any thing else in the engineer’s toolbox.

      1. vanbytheriver

        Very wise words. We’ve had this discussion a lot. And my adult daughter is the same way…wants to help, make things better. Often, we all just want to be heard. Thanks. ☺

        1. bipolarsojourner Post author

          and it doesnt matter how many times i tell my life engineers to speak the luangange of support, they run away screaming, since the concept is so foreign to them.

  3. Anxious Mom

    Excellent post. The fixers drive me crazy…I’ll usually just smile, act like they’re flippin’ geniuses for whatever they suggested, promise to try it, and leave it be.

    1. bipolarsojourner Post author

      that’s my problem! i look at fixers in odd wonderment and then i act like they are the friggin’ a-hole that they are.

      note to self: work on this. perhaps, my life would work out a little better if i acted more like anxious mom, at least in some areas.

            1. bipolarsojourner Post author

              maybe it’s good they don’t get the sarcasm. that way, they go away actually feeling like they did something worthwhile, even though you are muttering under your breath.

  4. Pingback: Blog Housekeeping | Strong Enough to Break

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