There’s a right way and a wrong way to help people. It’s important to remember that even when you act with the best intentions, you don’t always know what is best for someone else. Here are some guidelines to determine if you’re really helping someone or not.
You make people dependent on you
As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
When you focus only on people’s temporary needs, but you don’t teach them how to take care of themselves, in a way you make them a type of prisoner to you or someone else.
If someone is completely dependent on someone else for their livelihood or happiness or success, then they can never be truly free to live and sustain their life on their own.
This kind of dependence can be helpful, but only in those rare cases where people are completely unable to take care of themselves. For example, due to a severe mental or physical disorder. Otherwise, fostering this kind of dependency is usually harmful and unhealthy.
You try to do things outside of your power
One of the worst ways to help people is to try to change something that is outside of your power. Because when you intervene in problems, especially ones which you have no knowledge or experience in, you can often make a situation worse.
It’s important to accept that sometimes you aren’t capable of helping someone. Sometimes you need to let go and let things take their natural course. After all, you are only human, and you don’t have the time and resources to help every person in every given situation.
You try to help people who clearly don’t want your help
Another common mistake is trying to help people who don’t want your help. When you try to change something against a person’s will, it can often backfire and make them rebel against you. They may do the opposite of what you say just because they don’t want to feel like they are following your advice.
If someone doesn’t want your help, it’s important to respect that. As I mentioned before, you don’t always know what is best for everyone, and sometimes someone else’s perspective is going to be a lot different than yours. Make sure you respect people’s boundaries.
You only help with the expectation of something in return
In some situations, you may find yourself only helping people because you expect to get something in return. While humans are in many ways soft-wired to act reciprocally, I don’t think this is the best attitude to go about helping people.
Most people don’t like to be helped by others who aren’t doing it genuinely. They may even find it insulting. When helping others, be careful not to do it out of ulterior motives, but instead because you have a real desire to help people become more happy and successful.
If you get something in return for your good deed – awesome. If you don’t, then the satisfaction of helping someone should be enough.
Discover tools to daily growth in the digital guide The Science of Self Improvement