As you know, it is my mission to make people’s lives better! While this may sound altruistic, in truth, I get far more in return from helping people than they do from me. Some people are adrenaline junkies; I get a similar rush from seeing someone incorporate positive changes and start living up to their potential.
Sometimes helping people can be tricky, though. Someone may not realize they have a problem or that a behavior pattern is getting in the way of their success. Admitting that you have flaws (word change) can be very scary. And even if someone does realize that they need to make some changes, pride may keep them from reaching out to others for assistance. Here are a few tips on helping someone help him or herself.
CHANGE THEIR PERCEPTION OF THEMSELVES
Sometimes our own self-image gets in the way of change. We believe we are incapable of moving forward because we think we lack the abilities, talent or skills to do so. But if someone else can help us to see ourselves in a different light, it can give us that jolt of awareness we need to push forward. Nea Joy, writing on The Change Blog, has some useful thoughts on how to do this:
“If you really want to help someone, envision them in a more favorable light than they can see. See them at their best, even if they can’t show it to you. Help them to access their own strength, to reach their full potential. Challenge them to own up to who they really are—to feel the joy of personal empowerment and self-confidence. In everything you do for another, do it with this vision of them firmly planted in your mind’s eye.”
Sometimes even when a person wants to change, they have a hard time acknowledging that doing things in a different way might be more effective. When friends or colleagues make suggestions, their go-to answer is always “No.” There are several ways deal with hitting this kind of negative wall.
- Call the other person on their game. Point out the facts of the situation. When someone else can present an unbiased overview of how actions have resulted in negative consequences, it can be hard to ignore. Just make sure you are attuned to how your friend or colleague works best – some people need a more gentle approach; others have a competitive streak and react best when challenged.
- Stay calm and have patience. Sometimes stubbornness is actually a way to elicit a reaction from others. Then a person can focus on the reaction, rather than actually attacking the underlying problem. They’d rather deal with someone else’s anger or frustration than do the hard work to make internal changes. But if you stay calm and don’t take the bait, the person you are trying to help won’t have anything to distract him or her from the real issue.
TAKE A DEEPER LOOK
Destructive or negative behavior can actually be a cover for a deeper need or want. For example, someone may engage in self-sabotaging behavior at work, such as being rude to clients or coming in unprepared for presentations. On the surface, it may appear as though they don’t care about their job. But you may find out that this person actually cares desperately about his or her work – they are just no longer satisfied by what they are doing, and the real issue is that he or she would like to make a career change. The passive-aggressive behavior comes about because either they haven’t connected with this deeper truth, or are afraid to do something about it. If you can access the deeper emotional situation that is driving their behavior, you’ll be in a position to help them take positive steps towards what they want. They key to figuring this out? Listening.
TICKLE THEIR FUNNY BONE
Humor can be a fantastic tool in bypassing a negative reaction to an offer of assistance. If you can get someone to laugh at him or herself, they may be willing to then take action once they see how ridiculous their situation is. When using humor to try to get through to someone, it’s important to make sure that they realize that you are coming from a place of love and care. No one likes to feel like they are being made fun of – in fact, this can have the opposite effect and make them withdraw even further from a helping hand.
MAKE THEM THINK IT WAS THEIR IDEA
Sometimes people see asking for help as a weakness. They think that if they can’t do it all on their own, they have failed. In this case, sometimes a bit of invisible guidance can help. You may not be able to make a horse drink the water, but you can put lots of information along the path so that when he arrives, he thinks it’s a great idea to take that drink. And because he’s thought of it himself (thanks to your careful planning!), he has no problem following through.
GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
Some situations require the help of a certified professional. If someone has a substance abuse problem or issues with violence, they may not be able to help themselves. It is noble to want to try to step in and do something, but situations like these maybe beyond your capabilities. Recognize your limits, and instead of trying to play the hero, save the day by connecting your friend or loved one with the person who has the proper training.