(It could be a short post today.)
Helping is something we take for granted, we hardly think about how it happens, but Edgar Schein (Helping) and Michael Bungay Stanier (The Coaching Habit) have got me seeing just how complex it is.
‘Too much of your day is spent doing things you think people want you to do.’*
‘Helping is a basic relationship that move things forward.’**
When we stop to think about it, we all know how complex helping is.
We do something we think is helpful to surprise someone, but that wasn’t what they wanted us to do at all.
We don’t do something because we think it’s better to be asked, but now we’re in trouble because the other person thought that it was obvious and expected us to get on and do it.
We can buy help.
We can manipulate help from someone.
Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler remark on how ‘Billions and billions in goods and services … are now changing hands sans cost.’^
Here’s a basic kind of help. Something is put out there for people to pick up and use if they want to. No pressure, no-one’s watching. This is the basic kind of help. Perhaps a powerful example is Elon Musk’s decision to make Tesla’s patents available to those who want to use them.
A higher form of help isn’t a one-way street, though: it’s a relationship of trust.
When it comes to ongoing relationships – be they family, work, and other – things gets more complicated. Stanier writes about the dramatic triangle we can play out as persecutor, victim, and helper. We can demand help – persecutor; we feel put upon – victim; we come up with the helpful solution and save the day (ta-dah) – rescuer.
Schein warns: ‘We begin with the proposition that all human relationships are about status positioning and what sociologists call “situational proprieties.”‘*
Which probably means, we don’t even see we’re taking on a certain position when we offer help. Our help, then, can feel like judgement on another: You don’t think I can do this myself?
How can I help you?
Is not to presume. Is open to being told, You can’t. And that’s okay. And maybe there’s more to this.
Help is how we move forward as a species, so as I begin to read Schein’s book, I’m fascinated by what I’ll discover as I begin an exploration of the taking for granted but fascinating world of help – especially what I’ll see in myself, but didn’t know.