How We Can Be Better and More Thoughtful Helpers

When our friends, families, colleagues, acquaintances, and sometimes even strangers find themselves in disadvantaged positions, our immediate instincts will mostly be to help them in any way we can. Many times, these are people we cannot bear to see in pain or go through hardships and struggles. As long as we are capable of helping, we try to do so. We even sometimes put ourselves in inconvenient positions in order to provide the assistance others need. Across the world, this is a noticeable positive trait in many individuals – the eagerness to support others anytime we can.


On the surface, there should be no objections to helping people. The world is difficult enough, and everyone faces challenges. Morally, it only makes sense that we aid one another in easing difficulties. But as we have also all experienced, life is never that simple. There are elements to consider within ourselves and the person in need before deciding how to help. In reality, the kind of help a person wants may not be the kind of help they need. In these situations, it becomes our job to figure out how to back them up and take the necessary steps to do so, even if that means withhold our support. Moreover, a person who offers help without being solicited (whether or not the other person needs it) may also be regarded as being nosy or pushy, depending on the circumstances.

In this article, we suggest a few tips on when, where, and how to offer help if we are capable and willing.

Offer Without Being Asked

While we all have different personalities, it is advisable to offer help to people around us when they are in need. Due to personality differences, many people may hesitate to take this step, to prevent being called nosy, pushy, or unable to recognize boundaries, which can be quite embarrassing. But the truth is, there are also people willing to accept support but find it difficult to hint they want it. They may have been raised differently or have adopted habits or traits that go against the notion of implying they cannot do things completely on their own. On their part, they could be scared of being seen as needy, weak, or even lazy. Some of them may never request or admit they require help until it’s too late. As well-intentioned supporters, we should consider the shame, fear, or anxiety they may feel and extend a helping hand without forcing them to formally acknowledge their mistakes, misgivings, or inexperience.    

Think About What They Need

When it comes to our friends and loved ones, we are often emotional in our dealings and may find it difficult to stay rational especially when they request help or we realize they need it. With parent-children or romantic relationships, this happens frequently. Parents want to ensure that their children don’t lack in areas and individuals want to be the best partners they can to their significant others. These emotional connections may end up preventing us from being objective when our children or partners entreat our help.

Let’s use an example that we can all relate to. Your best friend asks you to cover for her, so she can keep something from her husband. Perhaps this is something small such as spending more money than agreed, but perhaps this is something major such as infidelity. You’re being asked to become an accomplice or an enabler to some destructive behavior. If you are a real friend, you must be willing to say no and not give into rationalizations or pleading because it’s your job to not engage in help that will be detrimental to them afterward or in the long run, even if they want it.

Be Spontaneous When Necessary

Sometimes, an act of kindness does not need to be requested before it is done. In fact, there may be no need to offer aid before taking action. It sometimes just needs to be done quickly when a certain situation calls for it. Surely, this depends on our relationship with the recipient and the type of gesture being made. A friend who overworks themselves, without taking enough rest or proper care of their health can be surprised with an unexpected lunch or a free massage gift certificate shows up. As a company executive, you can decide to gift an official temporary vehicle to an employee coping with serious or sudden transportation issues. These are spontaneous gestures of help, which may or may not be absolutely necessary but they are beneficial and demonstrate your awareness of their situation or circumstance.  

Ask for Specifics

When offering to help, asking for specifics is one of the most intentional and mindful methods. It helps you understand what exactly is needed and how you can approach the situation given your capabilities. It also saves both of you a great deal of time, enabling the requested assistance to be given right away.  Many of your friends, family, or acquaintances may be shy to specifically ask for the help they need, considering the position they are in. They may state a general situation, without elaborating on how they need you exactly. Understandably, it may not be your job to help them speak up but a little assistance can’t hurt, especially if you know they are hesitant to get into details. Asking for specifics is another way of clarifying and defining the circumstance for your friends or family who may need to think things through logically. You are prompting them to identify certain steps or processes as they confront an obstacle or challenge. When your friend says, “Hey John, I’m facing a serious issue at work, and I may need your help”, you can respond with, “Sure, are you having issues professionally, financially, or logistically? How can I help?” You are doing your friends and family the favor by putting a plan in a distinct order.

Exchange Selflessness

Finally, the most common reason why people sometimes feel reluctant to accept help from others lies in the fact they don’t want to be a burden, even when they need imminent help. Some just don’t know how to ask and find it difficult to accept it when it comes. However, it becomes less of a burden when the other party agrees to accept a selfless act in return. It is the proper way to simultaneously offer and receive help from friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. It shows consideration from both sides, makes both parties feel less guilty, and most importantly, presents a win for all involved!

Last Words

Extending our love and support to others is a wonderful means of strengthening our relationships, but we must be sensitive to the various challenges that may be involved with helping those closest to us. Everyone has different reactions to admitting they need help or accepting help. Be respectful of the parameters and thresholds others have so that your kindness is actually seen and acknowledged as such.


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