As readers of this column are aware, I have the privilege of serving as the executive director of the Women’s Resource Center. Those of you who know me or work with me know that I am very passionate about the center’s mission. The nature of our work involves identifying problems and creating plans and solutions. I love working with people on finding solutions and connecting them to resources. The problem is I might not always leave my work at work.
A couple of months ago, my husband and I were having dinner with friends. I jokingly said, “I think it is time for me to retire and be a stay-at-home wife.” Please note the very important word JOKINGLY. I have no intention of retiring anytime soon. Anyway, my friend said, “PLEASE don’t! I can just image it … you will be calling us once a week trying to fix us!” To emphasize his point, he said my phone call would start with “You know, I have been thinking about your life ...”
A couple a weeks later, I was on the phone with my mom and she was telling me about something she was struggling with. Knowing where the story was going and perhaps being in a bit of a rush, I jumped into the middle of her story, gave her the fix and checked that off as a problem solved. Was her response “Thank you Ashley?” Nope, it was more like this: “You should let people at least tell the whole story before you offer the fix.”
I would like to say they were wrong, but the sad truth is they weren’t. It was a good mirror to put in front of me so I could take a look at how I interact with the people I love. I am so used to managing, fixing and doing that I go into automatic mode. I need to remember that sometimes people are just sharing; brainstorming out loud, perhaps. It is even possible that they want to work things out for themselves.
I would like to provide a defense for my behavior. First of all, my thoughts/intentions are usually in the right place. I like to problem solve, and when I give input I think I am being helpful. I like connecting people with resources and other people. I come by it naturally from my mother, (thanks, Mom!). I sometimes forget to wait to be asked for help; I just barge right in with my observations and potential solutions. And no, it does not always work out well for me.
I want to thank my family and friends who love me enough to point out to me when I forget to leave my work mode at work. I can’t make any promises that I won’t continue to offer my unsolicited advice, but I do promise to be more thoughtful in how I give feedback. I’ll try to not cut people off if I see the fix, and let them get to it in their time.
And I may even through caution to the wind and WAIT to be asked for help….but where’s the fun in that?
Ashley Brown, executive director of the Women's Resource Center of Manatee/Sarasota, can be reached at 941-747-6797.