The art of being helpful

Being helpful is one of the most used pretext in human relationships.  Did you happen to observe it? Or, have you practiced it for yourself? (personally, I have done it several times).

Being helpful is used for each of those situations where you felt like giving an unwanted piece of advice, and you did it without minding the reaction of your receiver. It is each of those times you considered the outcome was more important than the form, indeed “you wanted to help”. 

“Being helpful” always sounds like a great thought, a positive intent. Still “Being Helpful” is first of all an egoistical act (we want to voice out our opinion) and because of that, we must be able to adjust our message. For example, as a manager, we need to ensure our feedback will inspire our co-worker rather than completely demotivating them. Indeed, if our aim is really “being helpful”, feedback or piece of advice must be shared in a manner which really echoes the needs and difficulties of the receiver. This situation is often observed in parenting situations or business environments, and I did choose to focus on Africa.

Indeed, one of the beauty (or challenges, empty vs. full glass perspective) of communication in Africa is the permanent need to respect elders. Age is meant to confer you wisdom. As per statistics, this can be considered true. As a matter of fact, being older supposes living (in quantity) more experiences, having the opportunity to make more mistakes, and therefore having the opportunity to gain  “more” wisdom. But it may also suppose, a very square life, a strict path, no risk, no changes, and therefore a very limited experience on the different aspects of life. Plus, I personally believe, everyone has a valuable point of view. Even a child, can give us some life lessons, if we are attentive and open to listen.

Therefore coming back to being the helpful hand, we need to understand that giving advice to others, is about listening to them, knowing them well and adapting our style to theirs. Let me share an example, my own story.

I have always been very independent, and have always thought that despite our education, WE become the person we decide to be, whatever the odds. It lays in our hands. Therefore, this could often to be stubborn and very unresponsive to plain orders as far as my personal life is concerned, or in some space my business. I am totally open to learning, learning from others experience and background but each time, the advice is presented under the form of a plain order, I back off, especially when hierarchy, or age are used as alibis .  I value the fact that my opinion is taken into consideration in matters that concern me, even when I am living a new experience. So being helpful to me, is opening my mind to different options. When I am given advice, I appreciate to be given options, examples, details and proposed recommendations, not orders. Each time, I have been faced with orders, even when I knew the final outcome of the person was to help me, I felt frustrated.

Some others, who appreciate to be recognized, like ” u did well and for it to be even more great, you could have done this”. In the company I used to work for, HR had worked with some consultants, to define praise as the basis of communication. Each time , you were to give feedback to somebody, you had to recognize what he had done good and propose changes by “adding” with the word “and” instead of the word “but”. This is one of the principles from Dale Carnegie, in his book “How to win friends and influence people”

I would add that in “being helpful”, the intention is not enough. If you intended to be helpful and use the wrong tone,  and you end up diminishing the person’s self-esteem, you are plainly responsible for that. “Being helpful” in human relationships is about adding up to others and doing what they need us to do. I would even link to marketing. When you want to offer a new product or service, you need to identify precisely the need from your target consumer which you try to close. It is the same with “being helpful”. Take time to know your friend, child, employee, relative and identify his needs, his expectations in order to use the right angle, tone, to interact with him.

Did you find this article useful? Can you share some experience on the same subject? Jump to the comments and let us know.

Love, Anna♦

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