Friday, 29 July 2016

To Help or Not To Help (Part 1)

This blog entry is a response to questions asked by CatDownUnder on 15 July 2016 about the complicated business of offering and accepting help. It truly can be fraught with many issues.

As I considered my own experiences and those of friends with chronic illness or disability, my reply to Cat became ever longer. The etiquette of offering and accepting help seems lost on many people. The ramifications of people's behaviour extend beyond a mere verbal exchange and go to the heart of self-identify and self-worth.

There were too many discussion points for a quick comment so I have chosen to publish the first part here, to be continued in instalments. Perhaps by the last one, we will have a better understanding of how to help each other.




Cat questioned whether and how one should offer or accept help. My immediate response is below:


The right thing to do is to offer help if you are certain it is warranted but be prepared to be refused and don't take it personally.

Be aware that your idea of what is helpful may differ from the person needing or accepting help. 

Trust that most people in need of help are their own best expert about what they need and how someone should help them.




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For example, consider an encounter that I had this week where I was trying to fit a large, long car into a narrow parking space (where I regularly park). Two pedestrians who were returning to their own vehicle  misinterpreted my very slow, careful, deliberate manoeuvres as a driver in difficulty. (Could this reflect their own lack of confidence in car parks?)

I was certainly confident about what I was doing because I had parked there many, many times and I know my car's handling extremely well.  The two pedestrians decided that I must need some help (they didn't ask or check first) and proceeded to position themselves between my car and the edge of the parking space while trying to direct me.

My car is longer than usual and needs every inch of room I can get in that car park in order to efficiently get into the parking space.  The two unwelcome strangers were standing right where I needed to put my car. I tried to wave them off, to call out to them "I don't need any help thank you." but they insisted on standing there.  They were in a dangerous place for their own safety (stepping in front of a moving vehicle, however slowly it was moving) and they were a distraction to my concentration and a nuisance.

Trying to explain to them that I know what I am doing with my long car had no effect on their actions. Maybe they were concerned that I might somehow back into their car which was parked across the aisle. Perhaps they incorrectly thought that they knew better about my situation ("She's moving so slowly, she must need help.") I move slowly so I don't hit neighbouring vehicles or obstacles and have plenty of reaction time should pedestrians come along because I don't have eyes in the back of my head!

In the end I bluntly shouted to them, "YOU ARE NOT HELPING. YOU ARE IN THE WAY. PLEASE MOVE!"  Now, they may have been offended by my exasperation, but it is also rude to insist when someone says "No thanks".  They wasted valuable time and energy, put themselves in potential danger, and everyone went away feeling upset. That is not helping anyone!


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Many people offer help through a sense of duty or a desire to feel good about themselves; e.g., I'm a good person because I helped someone. Maybe they have their own interests at heart. It is a good thing to help others but only when the motivation is truly about the other person's needs.  All too often the motivation is to (consciously or subconsciously) boost the helper's self-esteem or to serve the helper's self-interest at the expense of the help recipient.  

To be continued …







What do you think?




Links 


CatDownUnder, ""I tried to do something to help ..." blog post, CatDownUnder, 15 July 2016: http://thereandbackbytricycle.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/i-tried-to-do-something-to.html



8 comments:

  1. Made me think of when I was 8 months pregnant and trying to park my van on a "postage stamp". I couldn't see anything and must have dragged my sore body out of that car ten times to look. Crutches and all. People just gave me a funny look and passed me by. Well, there is the other extreme I suppose. I think it is important to ASK if someone needs help, not just assume they do/don't. I agree about some people helping only to boost their own self esteem. I know a couple of those. Blessings, Pam in Norway

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    1. Oh Pam! That can be frustrating when you are obviously having difficulty and no one stops to help. There is an etiquette to 'helping' whether one is being asked or doing the asking. I figure that people may not realise we need help if we don't speak up and ask for it but not everyone is comfortable or confident to do that. That is when it can be useful to ask someone if they need help. As long as people are polite about it and perhaps that is what needs defining.

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  2. Such an important topic! I try to make sure to ask if someone needs help first! Still sometimes people are too scared to help (one can see it on their faces) and then I wish they would just ask (because help could be needed)... Such difficult topic!

    Take care
    Anne
    Crochet Between Worlds

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    1. Sometimes people are too scared to ask because they have been rudely rejected on a previous occasion. I can understand why someone might reply rudely to an offer of help but a simple 'No thank you' should suffice.

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  3. I've had my say on this issue elsewhere but I have to say that I sometimes have had to say to people, "Thanks but it is actually easier to do it by myself". The problem is that I am not sure they actually believe me!

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    1. Yes, I get the same, but it is the very point - people need to accept that we know ourselves best whether they believe it or not. Part 2 of this topic gives more reasons for refusing offers of help. It is lovely to know that someone cares enough to offer help and sometimes that is the only help one needs.

      Thanks for visiting and adding your voice to the discussion here. I'm glad you left a comment so I can see you were here. I hope you are having an easy week, this week, Cat. :-)

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  4. I like how you pointed out that people need to be careful that they're not just offering help to feel good about themselves. Although I think I may suspect people of this too often. In instances like church when random strangers think they are "helping" by telling me they're so sorry I'm sick, its hard not to think they just want to feel like nice people. Because really a lot of times I was happy until they reminded me that I have a chronic illness!!

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    1. Oh tell me about it! [Jodie is nodding in recognition and agreeance!) When I'm feeling well enough to get out of the house and do something for pleasure, nothing annoys me more than people wanting to talk about my illness. I have to live illness everyday, so when I can 'escape' the 'lupey lifestyle' for a few hours, the last things I want to spend my precious energy on are issues around being sick! I can do that very well when I am exhausted and it all catches up with me at the end of the outing, thank you very much!

      In the meantime, let me pretend for a short time that everything's fine - ignorance is bliss!

      You've identified a very important point which got a brief mention in Part 3 of this blog topic "To Help or Not to Help":
      http://lupeyloops.blogspot.com.au/2016/09/to-help-or-not-to-help-part-3-i-can-do.html

      Thanks for leaving a message, 'jellylikejoints'. Your blog is very thought-provoking. I had never considered the possible links between connective tissue disease and joint hypermobility. It is interesting that some of my family members (including me) have all suffered some degree of joint hypermobility. I was planning to go shopping for an ankle brace later today and then I got to your blog to see you have articles on that! Amazing timing, don't you think?

      Take care

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