When you offer help, who are you really helping?

01Jul10

As humans, we often feel the need to help others in their time of need. When a friend or family member is in pain, we want to fix it. We want to make things better and take the pain away. We want to see them smile again. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re doing it for them, or us. Does it relieve their pain? Or does it relieve our own discomfort with their pain?

Think about the last time a friend was upset. What did you say?

I know what I said. “Is there anything I can do?” or “How can I help?”

Read those lines again. Slowly.

Is there anything I can do?

How can I help?

I bet most people use one of those two lines when offering help. Yet it’s so focused on the individual offering help, not the one in need of help. It’s also a closed question which makes it easy for people to respond with a quick one word answer like “yes”, or more commonly, “no”.

Now try this one: “What do you need?”

This question instantly puts the focus where it should be, squarely on the person in need. And by being an open ended question, it forces that person to respond with more than a simple yes or no, leaving the door open for them to really ask for support.

The next time someone you love is going through a rough time, try asking, “What do you need?” It may make all the difference in the world.

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