how to be a good helpPeople like knowing that they can do something nice for other people. It’s nice to be able to have a positive impact on someone else. It’s rewarding. It makes you feel good. It makes a difference in someone’s life.

But it’s important to know when you’re help will be appreciated. And when it won’t.

If you can tell someone needs help, it’s easy to leap right into fixing their problem. It’s easier to know what’s for the best from an outside perspective. You’re not as caught up in all the drama and emotion. You know what needs to be done and you care enough about the person suffering that you want to help them right away.

And that’s admirable.

But it’s also important to know when to leave people alone, when to step back until they are ready for your help.

MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE FULL STORY

You’re a bystander. You can see what’s going on, but only from a distance. If you’re not directly involved, there’s no way you can fully understand the situation. Even if someone has vented at length to you about it, you still only have their side of the story. You might only have the part of their story that comes out when they’re annoyed. There’s no point you rushing into action if you don’t know enough about things to properly judge the best way to resolve them.

DON’T DO ANYTHING WITHOUT TALKING TO THE PEOPLE IT WILL AFFECT

Remember that it’s their life you’re toying with. It might seem like you have a flawless plan but, if things go wrong, it could have serious consequences for someone you care about. You could end up making things worse if you don’t properly understand the effects your behaviour could have. The people you’re trying to help need to come first. If you haven’t cleared what you’re planning with them in advance, then it looks like you care more about playing the hero than actually making a difference.

WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE ASKED FOR HELP

The best way to know if you should act is for someone to tell you they’d like you to help. Otherwise, all you’re doing is meddling and no one will appreciate it. They might be prepared to accept that you have good intentions and to be thankful for your effort and sentiment. But if they haven’t asked you to do something, you’re better off not getting involved at all.

OFFER MORAL SUPPORT

Until you’re asked to get involved, be a shoulder to cry on. Offer your sincerest advice. Offer an objective opinion about the situation and share your thoughts on what you would do if you were in their position. Don’t make any presumptions. Accept their decisions as their own. Be supportive of what they choose to do and be honest in your discussion without insulting their choices. Be there for your friend in whatever capacity they ask you to be, and no more.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.

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