I stumbled across a great saying today on twitter from soulseeds.com which reminded me that sometimes right action is no action:
‘Not helping is sometimes the most helpful way to help people help themselves’
As a close friend of mine pointed out it bears the same message as that famous saying;
‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for life’
This can be one of the hardest lessons to learn if you are anything like me i.e; one of life’s fixers where you see the obvious answers and doing nothing is unthinkable. It seems we have an innate desire to help people by giving them advice even when they haven’t asked for it. We deem it simply our duty to offer a cascade of options with an assortment of tried and tested solutions that ‘fix’ them or their problems.
Ever been on the receiving end of copious amounts of advice like this? Remember how it feels?
It seems as human beings we have an inner most desire to help people, which is not such a bad thing if they really need our help. The challenge here is knowing when they really do and being brave enough to hold back when they don’t.
The very essence of giving out advice when people have not asked for it means that you are stealing their power to think for themselves, work it out in their own minds and have their own aha moments that just might turn out to be a unique turning point for them.
As a natural ‘fixer’ I have to be conscious of this when coaching others. On more than one occasion I have (just about) managed to stay quiet long enough to give them time to think a solution through, then right before I’m about to blurt out the answer – wham! They get it themselves! OK so it wasn’t the solution I thought they needed. NO…it was theirs, which was better for them not me, and that is the whole point….isn’t it?
In this fast paced, high tech, no time to think world we now inhabit, we really could help more by creating and holding the space for people to think for themselves, stop offering advice when they haven’t asked for it, and start offering encouraging feedback when a person comes up with their own solution. Even when it is a mismatch to the one we had in mind for them.
This is the true meaning of ‘self help’ and in these lessons where we found our own answers, we discover resources within us that will serve us well throughout our lives.
Be helpful by learning when to hold back and when to step forward with your wise words!