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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Helping Someone Too Much Can Often Be Counter Productive

If you follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn, you know I post at least two things per day. First is a quote that for one reason or another struck a cord with me. The other is some nugget of brand history. You may wonder how I manage to get this done every morning? I don’t, I normally schedule these a few weeks out.

Today’s morning quote could not have been more appropriately timed however...

Help someone, you earn a friend. Help someone too much, you make an enemy.” – Erol Ozan

This weekend was spent hosting our friend’s three kids (don’t tell them, we actually enjoyed a house full of laughter and chaos), trying to rebuild my Macbook Pro after an update gone bad, and helping our daughter catch up as much as possible before her first term ends today.

When my Macbook melted down (I usually know better than to upgrade to a new IOS before it has been properly debugged), I practically had to have a personal meltdown to get the person working with me to understand that this was not just “business as usual.” I needed help, and I needed help immediately.

With my daughter, she rarely asks for help. Part stubbornness, part pride, part embarrassment after having dug herself into a hole. She also appreciates that the more she does on her own, the more she retains. In fact, when I do help her, we play this little game. We will share a Google Doc and I will start typing an answer, and she will type over it, correcting me with what she previous “could not remember.” Hey, it works.

The challenge is, helping too much can cause her to shut down. We can’t just accept that she’s “got this” and leave her to her own devices. We have to work tirelessly to find that balance between helping too much, and not helping enough.

This. Is. A. Challenge.

The same thing happens in our personal and professional lives. Sometimes we see people “drowning” and we want to throw them a lifeline, other times we simply think we know better and want to skip to the end without all the drama in the middle. Said differently, sometimes we truly want to help, sometimes we are trying to spare ourselves the struggle of watching someone go through the process of trial and error because we simply don't have the time or patience.

A point worth considering.

Before attempting to help someone else, we need to understand our true intentions. We need to decide if we are really trying to help someone else or are just trying to help ourselves. Even then, it doesn’t get any less complicated. The trial and error, the starting and stopping, the walking and stumbling is part of learning. In those cases, it may be more productive to simply stand by and instead of helping prevent the fall, just be there to help someone get up afterwards.

Here is the truth….

There is NO right answer. In attempting to help others, we are going through trial and error ourselves. And just when we think we have figured out the right direction, the winds shift. Dramatically. The important lesson in all this is to be aware of two things. First, are you truly trying to help someone else or merely help yourself? And second, are you helping so much that in the process you may be doing more harm than good.

If you figure the secret to that one, give me a shout!

Oh, and the Apple Store was of little help…I actually figured out how to fix my laptop on my own.

I think….


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