How can I help- Part 2

"Treat a man as he appears to be and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were, what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be." Goethe

This past Saturday my cousin Sara got married. Her wedding day and the days leading up to it were filled with memorable moments, diverse emotions, family, friends, comfort and a little bit of chaos. This day will be remembered by the bride and groom forever, and this day will be remembered by me as well. This day was so special to me because of who Sara is in my life.

By birth, Sara is my cousin. By interactions she is my friend, sister, coach, counselor, challenger and encourager. It is appropriate to talk to you about her today because of our three week series on “How Can I Help?” Sara models powerful and effective ways that actually do help bring the best out in others.

Last week we talked about how frustrating it is to try and help a loved one, only to find our efforts falling flat and proving to be ineffective, sometimes making things worse. We discussed why our old ways of helping can be ineffective and we uncovered one of three powerful strategies in effective helping- witnessing. This week we are going to touch on the other two strategies- encouraging and challenging.

Sara has always done a great job of witnessing because she is a great listener. I can remember back into our childhood years, her just sitting there, listening to me, not trying to change me or fix me.  But in the areas of challenging and encouraging, she did not always have those skills. Sometimes in her effort of helping me, we would end up fighting. I would feel criticized or judged, but that was back in our younger days. She has since developed a beautiful ability to speak the truth, as a means to create growth and that is what we are going to look at today.

How can I help when someone who has a blind-spot? How can I effectively speak the truth to empower, without creating division?

Well, let me share with you how Sara does it.

#1- Connection– Sara always starts by connecting. She reminds me that she loves me, she believes in me and she is in my corner. She comes from a place of love and care, not judgement. She is for me, not against me.

#2- Truth telling– Sara speaks the hard truth, plainly. She is clean and clear with what she says. She leaves out the sugar coating. She doesn’t need it, nor does the person she is talking to because she has already established that she is for the person, not against him/her. Bottom-line- she speaks the truth to help, not to harm and the other person knows it. She takes no pleasure in making one wrong. That is not the point of truth telling. Exposing a blind-spot is the purpose.

#3- Letting it land– Being able to hear the truth can take time, especially when a blind-spot is being exposed. It takes a person some time to let go of their old perception, to be able to see the new. Sara helps make that happen by giving examples of how the truth has showed up, short recaps on what she has observed, leaving opinions to a minimum. She allows as much time as needed for it to land with the other person and doesn’t back peddle during this time. She remains quiet and supportive. She holds the tension with love and this allows the other person to grow.

#4- Empathy– Sara puts herself in the other persons shoes, relating to what it must be like and if applicable, sharing her own similar experiences, again sending the message, “You are not alone. I am for you and with you.”

#5- Encouragement– Sara finishes helping with encouragement. She is positive, hopeful and shares the vision she holds for improvement. Because she sees the best in others. She speaks to their potential, not where they are at in the moment, just like the Goethe quote at the top of the page. This is a critical step in effective helping because it moves a person forward. You cannot just speak the truth, let it cut like a knife, as the truth always does, and leave the person there to bleed. Speak to what is next, what is possible and how things will be when things are resolved.

This week, when you want to help someone, when you see someone struggling, when you see someone hurting and you are tempted to jump in and help, be sure to start by witnessing them and then move into challenging and encouraging. Test out Sara’s five steps and watch how they work to truly help someone. Not only will you empower them, help them, but you will grow your relationship as well.

Make this your best week in bringing the best out in others with the 3 Simple Strategies to help:

  1. Witness
  2. Challenge
  3. Encourage

With Love and Volition,