15 Ways to Help Without Getting in the Way
Helping done poorly is destructive.
The need to help says more about your needs than theirs.
3 UN-helpful reasons you feel the need to help:
- Feel important.
- Elevate status.
- Look smart.
6 unhelpful helpers:
- Hero helper. Rushes in to save the day like Super Man.
- Egotistical helper. Do it like I do it.
- Fixer helper. Now that you screwed up, I’ll fix it.
- Meddling helper. Loves to make minor improvements.
- Bleeding-heart helper. Loves to hold hands and look concerned.
- Savior helper. You’re incompetent or inadequate.
Effective help elevates the status of those being helped.
Helpful leaders are:
Handy but not hovering.
Aware but not interventionists.
Available but not anxious.
The 15 forms of help:
- Story sharing. “I remember when I did something like this.”
- Partnering. “Lets do this together.”
- Lending a hand. “I’ll do that.”
- Gratitude for effort. “I’m thankful for your work.”
- Acknowledgement of accomplishments. “You’ve made progress.”
- Suggestions. “Try this.”
- Confidence building. “You’re the right person for this job.”
- Perspective giving. “That doesn’t make sense.”
- Exploring options. “What else might work?”
- Listening. “Tell me what’s going on.’
- Cheering from the sidelines. “Way to go.”
- Providing connections with experts. “Who knows how?”
- Removing obstacles. “What’s in the way?”
- Clarifying purpose. “What’s important about this?”
- Empathy. “You look stressed.”
The 7 questions to ask before helping:
- Where’s the point of frustration?
- What have you tried?
- Would you like some help? Get permission to give help.
- What type of help would be helpful?
- What are your priorities?
- What are your goals?
- Where do you feel resistance?
Frustration and help:
- Moderate frustration sharpens focus and increases energy.
- Persistent frustration indicates it’s time to step in.
- Frustration while you’re helping indicates you’re not helping.
Reject relational dynamics where people come to you before giving it their best effort first.
What forms of UN-helpful help have you seen?
What are the best ways to help?
I think the fixer-helper mentality is one that small business owners in particular often rush into without realising.
When you’re under pressure and that thing that was real important that you “had” to delegate gets done wrong – the knee jerk reaction is to just rush in and fix it.
I think if we could get into the habit of stopping and working through your 7 questions to ask our workforces could really benefit 🙂
Thanks Mike. Perhaps the difference is a short-term vs. long-term approach to helping?
Great post. This is such an important topic Dan. And a common stickler for many of us!
It seems the majority of us really learned some unhealthy ways to help that ultimately doesn’t help the receiver OR the giver very well.
Many facets to healthy vs unhealthy giving and for many reasons:
1. Co-dependency – I wrote a post on this already: http://tweetconnection.com/2013/08/17/co-dependency-and-relationships/
2. Religious teachings that I know you are very familiar with. ie. Give and it shall be given to you , pressed down etc. Go the extra mile, etc.
3. Forced consumerism on holidays promotes unhealthy giving. Think over your lifetime and honestly assess how many gifts you received from others that you either did not want, like, or even NEED. And how often have you made purchases for gifts not really knowing if the recipient even needed it or wanted it?
4. For some reason, many people give what THEY need and not what the receive actually needs. And hey…I’ve done this! Especially in my younger years.
5. Unhealthy caretaking roles: not knowing how to ‘help’ a loved one who is ill. Lack of knowledge surrounding the need for people to retain as much independence, self-care, and dignity as humanly possible even in the midst of illness, sickness, and disease. (as able)
With the latter, my brother and I are going to be facing this with mom. She just found out yesterday she has cancer. We don’t yet know the extent of it or the level of her care needs at this time. Yet she is bound and determined to continue making quilts for everyone! : )
I’ve been a ‘bad’ helper in my lifetime and I’ve received ‘bad’ help that was anything but helpful. Sometimes ‘help’ isn’t really help at all but an invisible string attached because the giver either wants to control in some way or has some other hidden agenda.
Frankly, we can’t always figure it out in advance. So we can’t really lose sleep over it and take it as it comes when we become aware of it.
Most people need to relearn how to give and receive good, healthy help. Help that actually meets a legitimate need. Empowers people. Is given out of genuine good will and given as we are ABLE. And honest when we can’t, etc.
Just some quick thoughts off the top on a subject that is important to me. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Samantha. It’s great to see you get fired up. Love the “bad helper” language and your observations about what bad help looks like. Thanks for extending the conversation and sharing your story.
Like giving gifts or giving advice, helping implies that the person receiving something needs it, wants it, and is willing to admit he/she needs and wants it. The giver/helper must also have the gift/advice/help needed, dispense of it properly, and leave the receiver in a better state than if he/she had not received the help. This is something like marketing in the sense that if the need is not strong enough, the offer can actually offend. The key to good giving/helping/advising is being outward-focused, and sensitive to people’s needs, then dispensing of the help to meet their needs, and not your own. One good test of whether the help was truly other-centered is whether the helper/giver is offended if he/she doesn’t receive thanks or recognition for having done the good deed, or is offended if the help or gift is refused.
Help that hurts is not helpful. Help that glorifies self is not helpful. Caring help that meets needs is amazingly wonderful.
One more thought…it takes humility to ask for help. Leaders don’t know everything, and can’t do everything. I had a boss who made it a point of asking for our opinion and help, even when he had a good idea of how to move forwards. It was wonderful, and a continuous learning experience.
Hi Marc sounds warm and fuzzy, just for me a little off.
It can take Humilty to ask for help but that is not the common thread in all requests for help. That common thread is a NEED!!!
If I am on The Titantic lets say, the water is, the freezing water is at my feet and only gonna keep a coming….. It is not Humility that causes me to scream out for a lifeboat….it is an overwhelming need.
Giving is a two way street. If I become a Laser Focused Need Discoverer, then fill the needs, I have given.
Also true, I said TRUE giving is accomplished with no thought of return.
Giving with an expectation of return is NOT true giving. It is giving with a selfish motive!
Here is a way to truly give!!! Go find a sweet elderly woman who needs help across the street. First ask her if she needs help? Remember find the need first!!!! Then if she says, “yes I need help”. Then do it AND DO NOT TELL ANYONE you helped her!!!!
You don’t give by finding granny and dragging her across the street so everyone within eye shot can see what a grand fella you are!! Lol
Know a guy who told me he was displaying his Humilty picking up his 8 year AA Medallion at every meeting he went to for a week. He did not go to 7 meetings a week normally, but this birthday week he did!!
He said he was showing his humility by picking up these medallions at every meeting for a week to show others it worked and share his Humilty.
I told him, “yes with this strategy he was absolutely showing everyone his level of humility”!!!!
Thanks Marc. You made me think about the value of not helping. We give people a chance to realize they need help when we don’t help too soon.
Having this made into a Wall Poster ….
I’ve learned that if you are going the second mile to make sure that the other person is going another mile!
Thanks Rich. So, the only way we can expect people to go farther is to expect them to go farther.
Well, first things first!!!
Connect Why’s, trust emerges.
Then any of these suggestions work.
Don’t do this first none of them will.
If your plumbing is messed up right at the source, where the water is coming in the house, changing faucets, rearranging furniture, any kind of window dressing is useless.
I am not sure if I am able to make this any clearer.
Thanks Scott. I can trust you to bring “why” to the conversation. 🙂
Well, Dan if the first step in a journey of 1000 miles is in the wrong direction where do the other steps take you???
Farther and farther is the wrong direction!!!!
Start With Why!!! It is biological, work with the way the Braun works not against it I always say!!!!!
Dang typos!!!!! Brain!!!!!! Lol
Excellent post that really got me thinking. One context is playing pool – I am an excellent player with a broad understanding of the game and its various tactical aspects and am continuously in a position to help / coach / correct / alter / discuss different choices of teammates. I think most players simply ignore all that but from the perspective of teacher, it is important to me to help people improve.
The article really gets me thinking about what I should do and when. I had the chance to play another player whom I had helped a great deal last night. He went out of his way before the match to comment on how much I had helped his game play (and that he was terrified of playing me in the match). He did play well, I played a lot better, and he commented afterwards about me giving him more support in the future even though we are on different teams.
So, I feel and see a really mixed balance of consequences when I offer up ideas and tips and reframing choices. I WANT to help in situations like these, but how much of that is done to support my personal needs (3 UN-helpful things) and how much of that is to help the players (who sometimes do not even see they did have other choices they could have made)?
Interesting dilemma, and a problem to be considered as I stop doing what I was doing and consider the situation.
Good post, Dan.
Thanks Dr. Scott. I used to have pool-buddy. I sucked and he tried to help me. Receiving help is easy when you KNOW you stink. 🙂 But, it was also a bit frustrating after a while. I could see that I didn’t have the talent to get good at pool I kept playing because I enjoyed my friends company but the game frustrated me.
BTW…that last sentence is killer .. “stop what I was doing and consider the situation.” Pow
Again, I have no idea how you do this but I am very, very grateful. When I see myself in your lists, it reinforces that there are other imperfect humans out there like me. When I accept that truth, I am able to be more helpful to my co-workers. -J
Thanks J. I see myself in the lists too! 🙂
if we are talking about work related help, I like giving red flag rights to anyone within my authority, volunteer or paid worker. The red flag solicits the need for help and can be thrown for assistance at any time and at any level depending on the project as determined by the individual needing the help. I lead the field services side of an international agency and have rarely seen the privilege abused at any level or within any size working group. We have a reciprocal helping culture that sincerely offers help should they need it but at the same time, people know that we will help them with their “burden” but not with their daily load.
Thanks Marc. I glad you shared your red flag strategy. I was thinking as I read that I wouldn’t through a red flag unless I really needed to because of my inclination toward getting things done myself. Also, you distinction between “burden” and daily load is so helpful in this discussion. Cheers
Found you via Twitter and loved your bio so much I retweeted you Dream. Love it, Love it, Love it! Great article, have followed the blog. I had a conversation the other day about holding the door open for people, and some guys I know said they like to hold the door for people but then get Angry when people don’t say Thank You, or don’t try to hold the door themselves after. They get angry for not receiving praise for a simple gesture…. kind of defeats the purpose huh? Great site, great Twitter, have followed and will be in touch!!
Thanks Zachary. I saw your retweet. Much appreciated. And, thanks for leaving your first comment. Generosity that imposes obligation is barter at best, bondage at worst. Please come back soon.
As I read through this, I discovered some new concepts that I can implement in my career and some that I can eliminate. What surprised me by this post was the area of application these principles inspired most in me… my role as a father.
This is great stuff.
Thanks Tim. It’s exciting to me that these ideas have such broad application. Best for the journey.
Thanks for the tips on helping. I have been praying about a way to help my son who is a new father with no job and I don’t want to be pressuring him in any or making him feel bad. Will print and try these out.
Thanks Frances. Application in the family context is most difficult. Best wishes.
As an advisor this is spot on. I will be sharing this with my board! Love, love love it!
Thanks Nancy. It’s a joy to serve.
Sometimes helping involves refusing to help. I had a case today where people relied on me to solve a particular problem for many years. Nobody else bothered to learn to deal with it, even when it was no longer my responsibility, because I never refused to help.
The problem. My job evolved yet again and I am never in the office to deal with it. Last month I was in the local office 9 days. The problem recurred today and the person responsible for dealing with it ran to me again.
I had to refuse to help to force the resolution. A lot of frustrated people, but everyone understood why it was happening. Sometimes being too helpful costs the people you are trying to help. It becomes coddling.
Thanks Scott. Saying “no” after having said yes for a long time is one of the hardest “no’s” we say. I hate disappointing people. Or, upsetting them… It’s the long-view that enables “No.”
Thank you for the article, Dan. This article reminds me of a quote in Mandarin Chinese that is translated as “The more you help, the busier I get”. The helper thinks they mean well by jumping in with suggestions, advice, and even their actions. Often, the helper uses their own way of doing this in the suggestion, advice, or action. The person being helped feels insulted and incompetent that they are not good at what they are doing. The helper’s own way is seen as superior and the correct, while the original approach taken by the person being helped is inferior and incorrect.
I have shared this on LinkedIn to people who have “helped” me, and people whom I have frustrated by “helping” them.
Thanks Vivian. YOu remind me of a sign in the garage. Hourly rate $50. If you help, $100/hour. 🙂
This article is bringing up some memories from the funny part-time/ summer-time managers I have had the luxury of meeting. When I think of those guys, I think, Check your ego at the door! But that is garbage advice in terms of constructiveness. “Effective help elevates the status of those being helped.” is something I would love to see myself doing on my new campaign to raise awareness for land-mine victims.
Speaking of which, thank you for your advice. You are remarkably clear and easy to understand. You see, most of us are receiving extra credit for taking a leadership role. Honestly, with this project, it is very easy for me to want to use my skills in a proven way because the general objective seems so, so, so clear…help raise money and awareness for victims and show we care. But I won’t let MY ego or MY fulfillment become an objective even though, with the team so full of generous people, they would clearly let me help with my volunteer experience. In my case, good leadership as you describe it would come from DARE, or Health and Safety Training. In this area of early development of critical thinking thinking those instructors who taught me don’t ring a bell, but the course did to a great extent. They created role models for the cause through activities/ games/ etc and only jumped in when we needed it. This is training advice at its finest, Mr. Rockwell
What forms of UN-helpful help have you seen? The who-cares helper. Stop worrying about getting it right, just do this to get it done.
Aside from watching our motives we must be careful on how we help others. And yes, asking first sometimes will make a big difference before proceeding with helping.
Good stuff! In my last company, we had a bunch of nosey-parkers, whom we often called “helpers”. In sarcasm! Maybe, they should read this post!
Great list Dan. I particularly loved the description of Unhelpful Helpers. The motives behind these behaviors can provide fodder for numerous articles. I can imagine a great youtube video with these characters. Great practical advise here.
Thanks Scott. It’s great when readers take ideas to a new place. One the other hand, I hate it when people have cool ideas that I probably won’t be able to execute. 🙂 … I never met an a good idea I didn’t fall in love with.
One example of un-helpful help that comes to mind is “voluntourism”. It is a multibillion-dollar industry that has been known to have inadvertent harms. There are many problems that arise. Student volunteers are often sent abroad to African and South American countries. While volunteering, student volunteers can take on responsibilities that they would not be permitted to do in the United States. High schoolers and undergraduates have been reported to deliver babies or participate in surgeries. Many foreign volunteers presume, despite lacking qualifications, that they can do it better than local health professionals, which could then lead to harming a very vulnerable population. This is morally wrong and dangerous. It is also an example of help that may fall under the category of “feeling important”, “elevating status”, and “looking smart”. Short term volunteer projects have lasting repercussions on vulnerable, impoverished communities. Often, they do more harm than good.
I think a better way to help communities in need is to be more mindful of the situation. Like you emphasize in your blog, communication and understanding is key. Before helping, volunteers should ask important questions like what has been done in the community, what are the priorities, and what needs of the community. Often times, these communities need long lasting solutions such as clean running water, latrines, and transportation to local health workers, rather than a student delivering a baby. Being mindful and understanding the problem at hand is so important when trying to make a difference while volunteering internationally.
To add, sometimes the best help is not asked for. You have to have an awareness of the situation. Understanding your role and the skill set that you offer is important. Being able to see when someone is struggling and intervening in a timely manner may make a huge difference.
That was very helpful and a great call out to what I thought might be help is really contradicting their thoughts.