Helping others is a noble task, but how do we know if we’re actually helping or interfering? What is help and what isn’t? I am referring to emotional help, of course; not an instance when we help someone carry their bags or hold a door for them :).
Whenever we feel the urge to help someone in an emotional situation, we should remind ourselves that we’re all here to learn lessons. Sometimes, when we try to help someone out of the goodness of our heart, we actually interfere with their learning. We take it upon ourselves to carry the load the other person was destined to deal with on their own. The only result we achieve is helping them fail. How could we help others without hindering their progress?
The best way to help other people is to ask questions about a situation they found themselves in, guiding them, but letting them do the work. I recently talked to a friend who was complaining of an older relative’s irrational behavior and how badly it was affecting her own life. She was surprised and taken aback a bit when I asked for specific examples of this behavior. Her surprise grew larger when I asked why it bothered her. When she described certain instances, we proceeded to dissect those, to better understand why they were disturbing her. Finally, we arrived at a conclusion that her response to this relative’s actions stemmed from her own deeply rooted issues, she could definitely work on, to negate such reaction.
She concluded on her own that her past issues have infiltrated her mind so deeply, she saw everything through their lens, and this wasn’t healthy. She came up with a plan how she would begin resolving these issues. She understood this would be a long process, but she could finally see light at the end of the tunnel after years of frustration. All I did was ask questions, while she was looking for a constructive way out of her problem.
We often think it helps to say things like, “don’t get upset, it’ll blow over, don’t take it to heart.” The thing is, if the other person could do that, they would’ve already done it. Something is preventing them to think this way, so they keep coming back to us for more “reassurance”. The more we give it to them, the longer they’ll be stuck in that same gutter. Instead, we should be helping them figure out why the situation bothers them. We shouldn’t take anything for face value, nor should we use our own perception as a guide. Our position should be totally objective and non-judgmental toward any party.
We should be basing our next questions on the answers we received to the previous ones, building a logical chain that would eventually lead the other person to a solution. It would also be a great exercise for us and would help us begin to always think along these logical lines. When faced with our problems, we should be able to employ that same method and avoid panic and frustration while solving our own issues.
Here’s an approximate list of questions to help you along the way:
Can you describe what happened? Try not to get emotional, stick to the facts.
What exactly bothered you? The more details we get, the better off we’ll be.
Why do you think it bothered you? Try to connect it to whatever fears or complexes you know you have.
Do you want to stop this reaction? Do you want to figure out how react differently to a similar situation?
What could you do to change your reaction? Try to look at the problem from an entirely different standpoint. Imagine, you’re a different person.
Is this working for you? If yes, great, if not, let’s keep looking further into the matter.
Slowly but surely, we should be able to formulate a list of questions and answers, essentially forming a strategy to deal with pretty much anything. We will have learned a great deal in the process, and so would the other person, making it a win-win situation.
Go ahead, give this a try! It’s a fairly challenging task, so be patient with yourself and others. Remember to praise and congratulate all participants for any achievement, no matter big or small. If you feel you’re losing sight of things, re-read this article and continue your efforts. Don’t be afraid, don’t expect any specific result – concentrate on the process and you’ll get to where you want to be eventually.