Are you giving someone a hand or making their situation worse when you try to help?
Are you giving someone a hand or making their situation worse when you try to help? SvetaZi

Mind You: Lend a helping hand, without hurting

I WAS chatting to an old friend recently about family and how much they can challenge us at times even though we love them.

She was explaining how worried she was about her adult granddaughter; her behaviour and apparent isolation were creating concern for her and she explained how helpless she felt to do anything.

Essentially she wanted to intervene in some way but was also aware that doing so could create a divide between her and her own daughter.

It's paradoxical that we are often the last person who can help those who are closest to us because, sometimes, whatever we do the 'help' is viewed as interference and therefore ignored or criticised.

Yet if we don't help we feel we are not being supportive.

On the other hand, I feel we need to ask ourselves why we want to get involved when it is not our direct responsibility.

Often we get caught up in other people's lives, often vicariously, and want to help them solve their problems even though sometimes we are not paying enough attention to resolving our own.

I have learned a lot about that from the work that we do and from personal experience.

When I first started coaching it was partly driven by a desire to 'help' people but I realise now that often what we believe is helping is actually undermining the other person's ability to learn what needs to be changed and take responsibility for making those changes.

We don't change until the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.

You may like to read that bit again. In other words, life sometimes has to become difficult and unsustainable in its present format before we consider change.

What I have learned is to let go of the 'helping' because of the potential for its misinterpretation as interference. What I have embraced instead is curiosity and influence.

When we choose to spark someone's curiosity by asking questions and encouraging a fresh perspective on their life, we encourage them to recognise what may need to be changed and to take personal responsibility for those changes.

When we choose to influence, the decision to take action lies with the other person. We have shone a spotlight on a possible path or paths. The first and subsequent steps lie with them.

Rowena Hardy is a facilitator, performance coach and partner of Minds Aligned.

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