Recently helping has been on my mind, reflecting on various conversations, blogs, and situations.
These include a recent Twitter chat with the folks at @LnDConnect (#ldinsight storified here by Sukhvinder Pabial) on coaching, particularly what Phil Willcox (@philwillcox) had to say and Helen Amery’s (@WildFigSolns) People-ology blogs live from the CIPD Coaching Conference (#CIPDCoach14) and conversations that proceeded these.

I wonder, is my interest in language just semantics? Or is it intention, perception, and connection?

Empathy trumps caring.
Enabling trumps helping.

I recently visited Addaction Grantham for the first time, and on arrival was failed by the map apps on 2 devices. Nightmare. Yes I can read a map. And yes, I had complacently opted to rely on technology to get me there. So as I left the train station with plenty of time I decided I’d follow my nose. Ya know, see the sites of Grantham on my way to Addaction, grab a coffee. After a short time I accepted I was lost and stopped to ask a taxi driver for (on foot) directions, which he kindly provided. However I must have looked helpless (I don’t think that look actually features in my facial expression armoury) because he said “tell you what, hop in and I’ll take you there”.
After a slight protest and declaration that I had no cash, he insisted “it’ll be my good deed for the day”. Resistance met by insistence. In I hopped.
As we got to the correct street, he spotted the building ahead and pointed it out. My “oh great I can get out here and walk”, was met with “oh I’m going this way anyway I’ll take you to the door”. So we drove on. He dropped me at the door and I expressed my thanks for his generosity. #randomactofkindness

When he’d gone out of sight, I walked back along the road for a few mins, to reach the coffee shop I’d offered to get out at.
Smiling over my flat-white in reflection of this kindness, I realised I was actually uncomfortable ‘hopping in’. I can hop. That bit was fine. I’d been governed by politeness and a social obligation to view his suggestion as a random act of kindness (a beautiful thing) for which I ‘must’ show (and surely genuinely feel) gratitude.

Is it better to treat someone as you’d wish to be treated, or to treat someone as they wish to be treated.

We all have a ‘righting-reflex’. A desire to make things right. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s often recognised as an intrinsic motivation to care for others. It draws people to work and roles where we can help others others. ‘Helping professions’.
At the same time, having a righting-reflex also means it’s easy to make assumptions and believe we know what the ‘right’ way is. Usually based on our own values and experiences. We default to identifying with people around us: spotting similarities and perceiving their needs as the same as ours. Someone is experiencing something similar to me. So they must have similar needs.

Mid writing this blog, Kandy Woodfield’s (@jess1ecat) tweet from earlier this month enters my Twitter feed with an image from 3 Coaching Habits: Number 1. Stop Trying to ‘Be Helpful’, and I notice a reply from Doug Shaw (@dougshaw) about learning this the hard way. Me too!

Some years ago as a counsellor at Childline, I soon realised I wasn’t able to ‘make it right’ or rescue or problem solve, and it broke. my. heart. A few times. I felt helpless.
But hang on, if I took the problem away (a problem the person most likely felt they had no control over) then I was taking away all power for any control. Then who would feel helpless?
It was a welcome steep learning curve when I realised that people didn’t need me do that. That to really help, is to enable a person to help themselves. To cope. To live their life. Resilience within their own reality. And that’s where it started – empathy rather than care, and enabling rather than helping.

Switch to more recent years when I’m line managing people older and wiser than me. I am not the expert with all the answers to all of the problems. And I don’t mind. That’s not what I need to be. This isn’t an absence of knowledge or ability. It’s a righting-reflex in check. Resisting the urge to solve other people’s problems. Instead
coaching, enabling. Demonstrating negative capability for benefit of another’s growth.

You’ve heard before I know but…
Would you give a woman a fish to feed her family for a day? Or enable her to go fishing any time she wants? Resources, skills.
Do you work to make yourself indispensable? Or do you make yourself redundant?
I saw something recently that said ‘leaders develop leaders’.

[If I’ve miss quoted or inaccurately referenced something or one please let me know as this wasn’t my intention. The mentions are because you’ve inspired me]


One thought on “Helping

  1. pwillcox

    Hi Jo. Lovely post and I think you are playing in the world of conataion & synonyms as opposed semantics. Helping may be have conatations of with ‘taking away’ ‘solving for’ and that doesn’t mean it is any less valid. I can help the most (at times) by walking away and others by making you stop and think. What I do doesn’t matter, why I do it does.



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