I talk a lot about choosing to be helpful. But, what does helpful mean, what messages does it send, and what’s necessary to be genuinely helpful?
WHAT IS HELPFULNESS?
Helpfulness is being of service. It is doing useful things for people, such as things they cannot do for themselves, things they do not have time to do, or just helping them get access to things they would have a hard time accessing by themselves.
Helpfulness means trying to make life a little easier for other people. If we are paying attention, we notice times when people could use a helping hand – opening a door when hands are full, giving directions to a lost soul or assisting in the completion of a hard task. Helpfulness is simply that instinctive desire to ease the struggle of others.
WHAT ARE THE MESSAGES?
When we genuinely, proactively help others it sends a message; it tells people that our intentions are fair and noble because we are working in their best interests. Put simply, when we are freely being helpful, it makes it clear that it’s not all about us and that others’ needs and concerns matter. When we help others without asking for anything in return, it shows a willingness to sacrifice time and effort for no other reason than you see another human being who could benefit from having a weight lifted from their shoulders, even if it’s a small weight.
WHAT’S NECESSARY TO BE TRULY HELPFUL?
You have to want to do it for it to be genuine. If your boss has to tell you to smile, it’s going to be fake, and like a smile, helpfulness has to be something you want to do rather than something you have to do. It is something others can feel, they know it when they see it.
You have to be willing to be flexible and accommodating. Without flexibility, helpfulness isn’t really so helpful, it’s just doing what we want under the guise of doing for others. Accommodation is a real sign of the selfless nature of true helpfulness.
You have to be observant. Awareness is the first step to being helpful. We have to see struggle and the human in need and then step in to lift the burden if we can, thus, we need to be alert and looking for opportunities to serve.
You have to listen without judgement or assumptions so you can truly understand. Understanding is sometimes as helpful as assisting with a task.
WHAT’S HELPFUL AND WHAT’S NOT?
You are being helpful when you…
- Notice when someone needs help.
- Offer a service without being asked.
- Offer guidance when something looks like it could have negative results.
- Listen to someone who needs to talk.
Your helpfulness isn’t so helpful when you…
- Take action without thinking about what others need.
- Do whatever anyone asks even if it isn’t good for them.
- Ignore others when they ask for help.
- Fail to really listen because you’re making assumptions or looking for hidden agendas.
- Never offer to help.
Helpfulness is a choice we make. It isn’t a natural part of our wiring, think of young children, they constantly want and rarely help unless prodded. We have to teach them to make the choice. So, with that in mind, helpfulness takes conscious effort and practice. It may be something we never perfect, but the effort can affect change, great change, a change in the world. It’s worth it, your teammates, customers, friends, and family need it, so make practicing it a priority. Right now, look around you and seize the opportunity to ask someone one simple question, “Can I help?”