I used to think I was doing a really good thing by helping people - especially those who are most important in my life. After all, if they were in a tough place, why wouldn't I lend a hand - to pull them up from the depths of what was bringing them down? That's the right thing to do, right? That's for them, right? They are going to be better off because I helped, right?
Often times, the surprising and unfortunate answer to these important questions is.....'No.'
Recently, I had the privilege of attending a Conscious Capitalism of Chicago event http://consciouscapitalismchicago.org/ . Within that event, the presenter was Executive Coach David Emerald, who authored the book, "The Power of TED" https://powerofted.com/ted-for-work/.
David opened our eyes to a critical mistake many of us have been making when helping others. Until this awakening, I had thought that every time I was lending a hand, whether it was informal support for a family member, a friend or a significant other - or formal support for a client, Lyfer or business associate, that the hand I was lending was a good one.
I was wrong.
Turns out, there are 2 ways to help. We can either be a 'Rescuer' or we can be a 'Coach'.
As Rescuers, though we are acting out of the best of intentions, we actually reinforce the powerlessness of the person we are trying to help. When we lend a hand to someone by either doing the work to improve the situation for them, or by reassuring that 'everything will be alright' without them taking action on their own, we are actually confirming that they are a victim and that they can't handle on their own what they are facing. As I reflect on all the people I have 'helped' over the years, I can think of many where I acted as the Rescuer - thinking I was doing good for them and coming to understand that their situation didn't actually improve - it just got postponed to the next time they had a significant problem.
David also went on to share that frequently, the Rescuer has an unconscious need to be needed. This hits home when I look back, as I realized that some of the people I 'rescued' where the people I was trying to keep close in my life at the time. Simply put, if they need me, they aren't going to go away...... If the helplessness problem is never solved by them on their own, they will always need help. They have been enabled once again.... I didn't even know I was doing this.
Once that personality trait was brought to my attention, I immediately focused on empowering myself to let it go and encourage independence for all those I might have enabled in the past.
Knowing how prevalent this form of helping is, I would encourage all of us to take a look at ourselves and all around us and see how this form of 'rescuing' is playing a role in our lives and the lives of those who we care for most.
Alternatively, a 'Coach' utilizes tools and techniques to support the other person in guiding them to be the creator in their own life. At the end of the day, we are all responsible for our own improvement and development. That's why it's called 'personal' growth. It is very beneficial and effective to receive guidance, tools and support from others like a Coach, however, we own 100% of our own actions and effort to care for our challenges with those tools. A Coach empowers us to grow ourselves and when we do, we are better equipped for the next challenge or opportunity as life continues to hand them out.
So next time we are there for someone, ask ourselves 2 simple questions:
Who am I helping - them or me?
Is my help going to empower - or - enable them?
Helping and giving to others is one of the highest and most fulfilling expressions of the human spirit and when we focus on helping others first, our lives are enriched tenfold. So while helping others going forward, I am going to make sure I am guiding all others in a way that empowers each of them to help themselves.....
Keep Goin! And enjoy experiencing others grow themselves while being by their side.....