How To Help Someone You Love: Intent VS Reality
Have you ever tried to help someone only to discover that your good intentions were not received as you had anticipated? Perhaps it escalated into an unexpected confrontation. In most cases, it probably is not worth engaging in an argument. However, it may be beneficial if both of you are open to having a discussion. To successfully help, you must first be willing to understand their perspective.
“The best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.” -Steve Maraboli
Several years ago, I attended a work conference listening to a speaker discussing early childhood behavior. She was talking about the “lizard brain” and how young children react by either fight or flight when they get upset. During the lecture, she said that the next time a child is acting irrationally to ask them the question, “Are you helping or hurting?”
She proceeded to suggest that we try this same strategy when we find ourselves in an argument with our spouse or significant other. It seemed like sound logic at the time. I used her recommendation assuming it would be clever, and it completely backfired. I remember thinking as soon as the words left my mouth, “Why am I speaking this way to a grown man?” Immediately, I regretted taking her advice. It came off as incredibly condescending and belittling to his intelligence. I felt terrible.
I cannot recall the reason for the disagreement, but I do remember asking my husband that question and how he became even more triggered afterward. Luckily we can laugh about it together now, but at the time the irony of the situation is that I was not being very helpful by treating him like a child. So the takeaway is to consider how your actions affect others. Always remind yourself to remain calm even in tense situations, and treat others with respect. Think through what you are about to say before the words leave your mouth, and never make decisions or lash out in anger.
You may not even realize that you are inadvertently hurting someone by doing or saying something that you assume will help. I have found that the best way to help someone I care about is simply by being honest and maintaining open communication. If they truly care for you, they will understand your perspective and alter their behavior to show you respect.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
I hope you have learned by my earlier example of what not to do when addressing someone you love, or anyone for that matter. Although it may have been an effective method for speaking to a young child, I did not rationalize my thoughts in the situation. Therefore, I made the mistake of neglecting to consider the recipient of my words before I asked him a question that was never intended for an intelligent, full-grown man.
Even though you may be incredibly passionate about something and believe in it to your core — it does not necessarily mean that everyone else will share that passion. For example, I mentioned in a previous post how much I enjoy playing RPGs because of how influential it has been in my own personal experience. I highly doubt everyone who has read my blog post decided that it is something they are interested in as well. And that is completely fine. My goal is to help you find your passion, and in doing so I will provide examples of mine. At the end of the day, I only care about you being true to yourself and discovering what makes you happy.
Certain words or actions will evoke a different response depending on your audience. Always be mindful of who you are speaking to and how they might react. Your intentions may be true when all you desire is to help someone. However, consider that your manner of doing so might inadvertently cause them more harm than good. One of my favorite quotes depicting the truth of this reality:
“Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.” -Dr. Alan Grant, Jurassic Park III
LISTEN & LEARN
Remember, you can only help someone who is willing to listen. If you are coming from a place of anger or judgment, it will never achieve positive results. Make sure you are respectful and willing to hear them out as well. Do not listen to respond — listen to understand. People will always be more receptive when you approach them with genuine kindness and compassion.
Be careful not to make assumptions based on your own opinion. Instead, ask them to explain their thoughts and values so that you may better understand how to help. Deepak Chopra offers his wisdom on how to handle a disagreement. It certainly requires humility, mindfulness, and self-control — especially when emotions are involved. Resist the urge to do what you think might help. Go into it with the mindset of, “help me to understand what you value and why.”
Try not to take it personally if someone declines your offer to help. Perhaps you just need to go about it in another way. We are all different and have varying interests based on our own unique personalities. It is still possible to love someone who may not share your opinion. All that matters is that whatever you do, at the very least — always demonstrate kindness. We may not be in control of what happens, but we can control how we respond. Take the high ground, help where you can, and leave the world better than you found it.