If you’re reading this blog, it probably means that you care… You care about others, and that’s a beautiful thing. What you’ve probably realised somewhere along the journey is that your well-intentioned desire to help fellow human beings can come at a cost. An extreme scenario would be where your help backfires and ends up worsening the situation. A more common situation is one whereby helping someone you care about, be it a friend or a colleague, ends up being detrimental to you. How do you know if it’s happening? It’s pretty simple, you’ll feel drained.
I’ve experienced the latter both in my personal life, desperately trying to help people who weren’t ready to get helped, and in my early days as a life coach. So how do you help others without hurting yourself? The good news is that there are simple ways to make sure you can carry on being supportive to those around you without feeling like you need to lock yourself up in a monastery to recover from it.
1. Do your research
What do I mean by that? Make sure that the person you wish to help is actually open to it. You might be thinking “duh”, but it isn’t as obvious as you might think. You would be amazed to see how many people end up resenting their loved ones going Olivia Pope on them (any Scandal fans out there?) without their explicit consent. No one likes to be “fixed” or “handled”, no matter how well intentioned you might be. Sometimes people just want to have a safe space to talk, vent until they find clarity in their own time.
2. Keep your wellbeing in mind
“You can’t pour from an empty cup” might be a cliché but it is still sound advice. Offering to take on your colleague’s assignment because they have asked you for support or because you know that they have a lot on their plate is very noble. However, you must ask yourself: how will this impact me? Depending on the scope, you could enlist a third benevolent person to spread out the workload. Alternatively, you could clearly state what part of the work you are able to take on, thus managing expectations.
3. Know when to bow out
We’ve all been there, pouring every ounce of energy into helping someone out of a deadlock, including...cough…unhealthy relationships. You go over and over the same issues, come up with solutions that would make Dr Phil proud and yet, it’s only a matter of days before you end up having the same exact conversation, as if you’d turned back time, with no progress in sight! It can feel very frustrating, I know. This often happens because the person has intellectually registered the need for change but isn’t ready to make it happen. And that’s OK. Gracefully start removing yourself from said debates, avoid giving advice and gently bring the conversation to more neutral grounds.