My girlfriend Anna was saying this to me over coffee last week. In Anna’s situation, she has an adult daughter who is married. She found out her son-in-law had hurt his ankle. Anna decided she would research what was wrong with her son-in-law’s ankle and semi-diagnose his injury. Then, Mary found a specialist in the area to treat the ankle and set up an appointment for him. How nice! The annoying part was probably that her son-in-law didn’t want her help to begin with.
The great part about Mary is that she cares about people and she is good at solving problems. This was wonderful when her husband was diagnosed with cancer and he asked for her help. However, with the other people in her life, it could feel like Anna helps too much. For them, it could feel like boundary crossing ,or it could feel like she is pushing them in a direction they aren’t comfortable with or ready for.
Anna has wonderful intentions. And that happens a lot with “helpers”. They have good intentions and then people get mad. Then, the person who was giving the help gets hurt and confused when they were just trying to be positive, useful, and show how much they care.
And back to Anna’s original question: What is wrong with helping?
There’s nothing wrong with helping. Helping others feels good. It makes the world a better place. However, when people don’t want your assistance, it is better to give them space to figure things out on their own. Here are the most common reasons people who are being “helped” get annoyed:
- The helpee can feel like you are trying to control them. They may feel like you want them to do things their way. Maybe they just want to figure it out on their own, even if that means feeling the consequences.
- The helpee can feel like you don’t believe in them. If you are rescuing, fixing, and problem solving, it sends a strong message that you don’t think the other person can do it without their help.
- The helpee can feel disempowered by your involvement. This is similar to #1 and #2. If a boss is constantly riding your decisions, you are disempowered. Same with parents or spouses or any other relationship.
- The helpee can feel like you are crossing their boundaries or are inappropriately involved in their business. This is understandably very annoying. Even if you want to help someone and it looks like they need it, if they don’t want your involvement you need to just focus on your side of the street. (If this is hard for you, then you have some control issues that are interfering with your life enjoyment, I bet)
- The helpee can feel judged. Hopefully, nobody is trying to judge anybody else. However, it is easy for helpers appear like they think they know better about____. This will really bug people.
Women are trained and socialized to be helpers and nurturers. Many women know this path well.And thank goodness there are nurturers out there!( I do realize that not all women out there are nurturers. Life would be way too boring if all of the women out there were.) However, we women do tend to trend in that direction.
Most of this nurturing has a lot of goodness and caring behind it. However, this can change into harming others and relationships if one isn’t discerning on how one “helps” and the impact when one becomes involved in the situations of others. So, take care when you care. Examine your intentions,weigh the consequences of your involvement, and be careful to what degree you get engaged.
Call To Action
- Remember to take care, when you care.
- Check out my article on detrimental caretaking for my information on how helping can be harmful.
**Any of this look familiar? Have you ever had a friend, parent, boss, co-worker or neighbor who was trying to “help” but ended up hurting (or at least became very annoying)? Please share this and tell us what you did about it.