Help Out the Helpers

“I’ve got it, thanks.” “You don’t have to worry about it.” “I’ll be fine.”

These are some of the most common things we say to those who offer to help us at times we don’t feel we need the help. I imagine that half the time people do need help but don’t like to admit it. The other half of the time, they utter these phrases because they honestly don’t really NEED any help with whatever the problem or situation may be.

I’m writing this post to advocate what may seem like an unusual position; half of the time you don’t need any help with something, accept it when it’s offered anyway.

When people offer to help you, whether it be with the dishes after a dinner at your home, or with getting through a difficult romantic break up, what they really want to do in most cases is two things. First, they want to feel useful. Second, and more importantly, they want to the give demonstrative support to you in some way. My take is that when we say, “No thanks,” we are depriving our friends of the ability to know that they have meant something to us in our times of need, small and large.

Just as when you are in trouble you feel better, more loved, more appreciated when someone is there to help you through something, people who see someone in trouble feel like they are more fully loving someone when they are able to help. Everyone has their problems, again little ones as well as big. And sometimes helping someone with one of theirs also helps us through one of ours. The very atmosphere created when someone is lending a hand to someone else has healing properties for many.

Don’t give away the store. Protect your privacy. And if you want to be alone, by all means by so. But when your daily difficulties, or tremendous pains are obvious to others, it can be a very trying thing to your friends when they watch you go through something and feel unable to help at all. So, if you honestly don’t think you could use any help with something once it is offered, meet people halfway. Give them something smaller they can do.

–Even if you can get your door open with the packages you are holding, let them open it anyway.

–When a guest wants to help you set up or clean up a meal, give them some of the smaller tasks that won’t interfere with how you run your home. Let them set out the plates, or wipe off the table. Maybe sweep the kitchen.

–If you are feeling very down about something, ask those that want to help you somehow to send you some quotations, or a book, or something along those lines which is designed to encourage people in your position. Non-intrusive but active way for others to get involved. (And believe me this is kind of a big one. People who like to help often seem to be people who love to look for quotations, articles, and books for their friends.)

You get the idea. Don’t let an out of place sense of rugged individualism get in the way of helping others feel useful around you. The same goes for being afraid of burdening someone else with extra work. The vast majority of people who offer to help out with something actually want to do so. You don’t have to do everything alone. People are there for you. But if you constantly give the impression you don’t ever want or need anybody’s help, they are likely to back away eventually. And then where will you be?

And who knows? You may find the little tasks you assign to the willing actually end up making your life easier, or making you feel better after all.

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1 Comment

  1. I agree, Ty. I once saw a tweet by someone along the lines of “I don't rely on the kindness of strangers.” I found it depressing someone would not only tweet that out to the world, but obviously take it as a point of pride.

    Of course, I am, in some sense a pot calling the kettle black, but at least I admit I have a problem. These are good suggestions.

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