Help and Networking: The Psychology of Assistance

helping-smIt’s well known by experienced networkers that the best way to build a relationship with someone is to “add value” to the other person’s life or business – in other words, to help them. However, the subject of “help” – specifically how you mentally and emotionally react to the giving and receiving of help – has powerful ramifications on your success in work and in life.

Two Questions To Ponder

Take a moment to really assess within yourself your feelings and thoughts on these two questions:

  • QUESTION 1: How do you feel about helping other people?
    (Take a moment to answer this for yourself.)
  • QUESTION 2: How do you feel about other people helping you?
    (Take a moment to answer this for yourself.)

OK, now that you’ve gotten a chance to give these questions a little consideration, let me explain WHY your reactions to them are so important.

Your Feelings About Helping Others

If you’re like most people, your reaction to the first question is uniformly positive. People generally feel good about being able to help other people, which I’m sure isn’t a big surprise to you. But you might find it interesting to note how CRUCIAL it is to your well being and happiness that you feel you are able to help others.

For example, have you ever felt “unfulfilled” at your job, or heard someone else say they felt this way? When someone says this, everyone sort of “gets” what they are saying, but it’s rather nebulous. What does “fulfilled” really mean?  It appears to be a feeling that is hard to grasp or define. You just “know it when you feel it”. But understanding “help” as a subject actually provides us with a tangible definition.

When you say a job “fulfills” you, you’re saying that through that job, you feel you are HELPING OTHERS sufficiently in your estimation. It’s all about help.

What AMOUNT of help is “sufficient” for you is purely subjective. It’s your opinion. What FORM of help you provide is of course based on what you feel your capabilities are.  But when you’re operating within those parameters for yourself, you’ve got “fulfillment”.

If you take a much broader look at this and really think about it, you will see that your feelings about helping others not only affect your sense of fulfillment, but your sanity and your desire to live.

You will find that people who have a lot of negative feelings and uncertainty about helping others are not doing well mentally, and even find themselves thinking about death frequently. You show me someone who feels they are of no help to anyone, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t long for this world!

Fortunately, most people feel quite good about helping others.

Your Feelings About Others Helping You

This is where things start to get interesting. While most people feel very good about the first question (you helping others), the opposite is true for the second question (others helping you). That is, a great number of people have some sort of negative reaction to the idea of others helping them. They often won’t admit it at first. It might just manifest as a pause while they think about the question before answering. They have reservations about others helping them. And if you press them for an honest answer, you might hear some things like these:

“Well, as long as they don’t push their help on me.”

“I guess, but I prefer to be self-reliant and do do things on my own.”

“As long as they don’t have any ulterior motive for helping me.”

“I don’t like to feel obligated to anyone.”

In my experience, these sentiments on help usually amount to equating help with “control” or equating help with “betrayal” or sometimes just the feeling that if you accept help it will somehow lower your own status in the eyes of the other.

Clearly, these kinds of reactions are rooted in some bad past experiences/associations on the subject of help. Sometimes it comes from other people who were helping under false pretenses. Sometimes it comes from having tried to help others and having that help rejected over and over (like a relative who you tried to help get off drugs). There are many variations, but the point is: if you find you have “issues” about receiving help, it’s worth examining where the root of those reactions might be coming from and trying to change it.

Some Final Thoughts

  1. If you agree that the best way to build relationships is to help other people, then I’m sure you’d like those other people to accept YOUR help. And it’s hard to expect others to do something you’re not willing to do. Besides, if we’ve got a world where everyone wants to GIVE help but nobody wants to RECEIVE it, that amounts to a bit of a math problem.
  2. Have you ever considered that allowing another person to help you is actually helping them? People get a lot of gratification from rendering valuable assistance to others. Being a willing recipient when they offer will ALSO go a long way towards building those relationships. Don’t underestimate the power of this point.
  3. Figuring out ways to help others is not only good networking, its the best way to stay fulfilled in your life and work.
  4. When you help someone and get something in return, maybe your bank account grows or your opportunities grow (and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that). But when you help someone with no expectation of anything in return, YOU grow.