Republished with permission from the Whitman College Peer Listener Handbook Note: The handbook is an excellent resource, especially when listening in person, however it does not perfectly mesh with LiveWire's "Peer Answers" philosophy.
REMINDERS FOR HELPING WITH PROBLEMS
All people have problems throughout their lives - some big, some small.
We each "own" our own problems and are responsible for our actions. No one else can solve our problems for us.
When you take over someone else's problems and give him/her a solution, the person learns nothing. Although the person may feel relieved at the time, he/she becomes dependent on you for solutions and doesn't develop his/her own skills. When you find yourself continually "rescuing" other people from their problems, ask yourself if you are trying to make the world depend on you.
When someone talks to you about a problem, listen to what they are asking for - they may want you to just listen. Not everyone is looking for help in solving a problem.
Believe in people! We all have wonderful potential for finding and getting what we want and need.
STEPS TO PROBLEM SOLVING
Look at past coping attempts. What has worked in the past? What has he/she tried so far? Try to determine what would be effective and why.
Determine what resources your peer possesses. Help identify their internal and external resources.
Check the placement of responsibility. Make sure both of you are aware that you are there to help develop solutions, not to solve their problems for them.
Have your peer explore the options. Once options are labeled, have your peer list the advantages and disadvantages to each one.
Plan. Help your peer develop a concrete plan of action and implementation.
Explore possible failure. What will your peer do if the plan does not work or has different outcomes?
Make referrals. If other resources are needed, provide them to your peer.