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Thursday, October 8, 2015

You Want to Help Someone, Let Them Get Singed (but Don’t Let Them Burn Up)



I just finished watching a two minute video on Facebook (yes, you can roll your eyes at me), where a child no more than two-years-old, climbs a miniature indoor rock wall. The wall wasn’t more than four feet high but it was still pretty difficult for someone so little. The most brilliant part: there was no adult or parent there lifting the child up helping her find each crevice for her feet and hands. The adult was a safe distance away in case the child fell, but the child completed the wall on her own. 

This is something I’ve been contemplating for sometime: If you want to truly help someone, you need to let them work things out for themselves, maybe letting them get burned a little, before stepping in to prevent any potential full on disaster. 

Unsolicited help or advice will almost never lead to a person creating longterm sustainable change and/or finding the valuable lesson they need to learn. A person needs to have full ownership of the solution to their problem. Even if it is your solution, it has to make sense in the other person’s head and how it can apply to their own life.

When I present to colleges on suicide prevention, I always stress that when a person is with a loved one who is in crisis; it’s always best to listen, tell them that you love them and that they’re important, and know where to find professional. Advice or suggestions should almost never be on the agenda. Because the way I solve problems is different than the way you solve them. It make take some time but the person in crisis needs lots of support and at some point (hopefully in the near future) needs to take ownership of their solution to managing their emotional pain. I say all this from my own experience being in crisis in 2011.

Whether it’s wanting to prevent a loved one from experiencing the pain of job loss or a breakup, or a trying to rescue a colleague from making a terrible business decision—it’s important to let people take personal ownership of the solution to their problem. Yes it’s a delicate balance between “helicopter friend/parent” and being a fire extinguisher to prevent full on calamity—but the overriding factor here is that you’re a positive force in a person’s life and that you care. And I’m sure you’ll figure it out on your own :) 
——
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