What’s Your Definition of “Help”?


“Help” seems like a relatively simple and clear word to define. Each of us has been on the receiving and giving side regarding some form of “help”.

Despite the familiarity of the word, each of us has our own way to define “help”.

One person may feel they’ve helped another by giving their version of sound advice.

Another person may believe they’ve offered their help by preparing a meal for someone who works long hours and feels tired by the time they arrive home.

In each situation the offer may be completely sincere. Also in each example the offer may feel disappointing to whomever is on the receiving side of this well meaning help.

Why is that?

Since everyone has their own sensibility as to the type of assistance they’d like to receive from another, if the one who offers their help isn’t aware of whether the person whom they’d like to help, has a similar way to understand “help”, there is a great likelihood that the well intended offer will be poorly received.

What can be done to create better balance between what is offered and what is well received?

The best place to start is with clear knowledge of our wishes.

If my greatest feeling of being helped is in feeling understood, then the best way to help me is with attentive listening and commenting to what you’ve understood me to say.

If you either aren’t aware of what I consider the most meaningful help, or assume that my definition is very similar to another type of help you’d prefer to offer, then clarify your awareness and/or assumptions, by asking me what type of help I’d like to receive.

Sounds very easy to have such a dialogue and yet many misunderstandings, frustrations and disappointments take place because people assume instead of asking, ‘in what way would you like me to be helpful to you?’.

Now that you’ve read this article, you’re able to be in the category of those people who care to help another person, and also care to find out exactly what will satisfy that person’s feeling of being helped!

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About Sherry Katz

Sherry Katz, LCSW is primarily a couples therapist who counsels partners and individuals of all adult ages, in relieving tension and unhappiness in their relationships. The spectrum of care in her practice includes recuperating from infidelity, clarifying and strengthening trust and communication, restoring and developing common ground for a relationship. Ms. Katz has a secondary practice interest in helping family members align themselves in response to caring for elderly parents, especially a parent who has Alzheimer's Disease.Old Stories, New Views Family Therapy

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