Help Others By Helping Yourself: 5 Tips For Advice Sharing
In my last blog, I shared some of the reasons why people might not take your advice, however good or well-intended. Today, I wanted to talk about five things we can remember when offering our help to others.
We have to be careful we’re not giving unwanted advice, as there’s nothing worse than having vitriol thrown at us. When that’s happened to me in the past, I developed a strong resentment of the person I’d been trying to help. This meant that even if the person came back later wanting advice, I’d feel too enraged to offer it. Those experiences are what led to me coming up with this important list.
1. Offer Advice
I am guilty of assuming that people want my advice. This is not always the case, and I’ve found unsolicited advice-giving has not always served me (or the ‘advisee’)!
Now, I will offer advice before giving it. Recently, for example, I was on a forum and knew that I could help someone. I’d got to the other side of the exact same thing he was talking about. Instead of automatically sharing my experience, I wrote, “Let me know if you’d like to know how I got over this.”
He didn’t respond. Of course this hurt, but it would have hurt more if I’d detailed my full process and it had been responded to with venom.
Although I know that I am on this planet to help others, he’s obviously not the person I’m meant to be helping right now. He made his choice, and I backed off.
2. Help Without Opening Your Mouth
Maybe someone doesn’t want to talk about what they’re going through with you or anyone else. This is normal – we don’t all want to share our journey with other people.
This is not necessarily a time to walk away, but it is a time to zip your mouth. You cannot persuade someone into talking with you if it’s uncomfortable for them.
When this happens, I will offer a link to a podcast or a book you think might help. Something small that they can easily engage with if they choose to. Never tell them they “must” listen to the podcast episode, or “have to” read the book. Leave them the choice.
I’ve bought books for people in the past and said, “This might help. If it’s not for you, no worries, just pop it in a charity bin.” Every time I’ve done that, the person has come back and they have read the book. Whereas in cases I’ve told people they must read something, I get no feedback.
Gently does it.
3. They Want To Talk, But Not To You
Sometimes people don’t want to talk to those close to them about what they’re going through. They want someone independent – that’s why therapists play such a vital role in society.
You can offer your help for them to find someone who they feel happy chatting with. When I’ve done this, we’ve accompanied the internet search with tea and cake! It’s important to figure out what they’re looking for, and there may be objective knowledge you can offer. I, for example, can explain the different types of therapy and therapists’ specialities. I don’t share whether they worked or not, but I do share my experience and what form the therapy takes.
Never recommend your own therapist.
And never, ever recommend they see a therapist unless they’ve already tabled the idea.
4. Boundaries Are Your Friends
Whenever I used to hear the word ‘boundaries’, I would get very afraid. I thought they were about cutting people out of my life or being cut out of someone else’s. This is not the case.
Boundaries protect both you and the person you’re trying to help.
The person you’re helping needs to stand on their own two feet. They need to be independent – you cannot do their healing for them. The more you try to protect and ‘fix’ them, the more codependent that relationship will become. Trust me, that’s not a situation you want to be in.
Think about teaching a kid to ride a bike. You give them some of your tips on how to do it, but they’re not going to learn until they jump on and try it for themselves. You’ll watch that child fall off, but you know that if you mollycoddle them, they’ll never learn to ride. You’re there with the first aid kit and the loving snuggles, but you can’t learn for them.
The same is true for those you’re trying to help. You inspire them to start the journey, and you’re always there for them, but you can’t heal for them.
Without boundaries, any relationship is potentially toxic. This is especially true if you’re helping someone out.
5. Why Are You Helping?
It’s time to go deep and work out exactly why you’re offering help. What does helping others give to you?
For me, I feel drawn to help others. It’s a magnetism that I almost cannot resist. It’s my passion and my purpose, and I cannot imagine not helping people. The satisfaction and contentment I feel come from sharing experience, knowledge, and advice. I detach from the person’s response, remembering they’re on their own journey with its own timing.
If you’re helping because you feel good when people are grateful for your help, is there another way to feel this? You never know the reactions others will have to what you say. Your self-esteem needs to rest on something that is not about someone else.
What else gives you the same feeling as a gratefully received piece of advice? Preferably opt for something that doesn’t require someone else’s input! Think about how that is a better way to gain satisfaction, given you can create it for yourself, without relying on others.
Humans are unpredictable.
Don’t hand your mood, emotions, and power to other people.
We get to help people in many ways, often not even knowing when that’s happening. We influence others simply by behaving in a certain way.
The more we base our emotions on the reactions of other people, the more we will stop trusting ourselves. We must ensure we’re offering the right help at the right time, with no expectation of any kind of return.