Inflicting Help vs. Asking for Help

One of Yves’ comments got me thinking about asking for help vs. when I get help inflicted on me. As a handicapped person (!), I use a cane now. I find it helpful to have a third leg, so I don’t lose my balance. And, it often means that people hold doors for me. Sometimes, that’s helpful, unless I am holding the door handle myself. I use the handle to balance. When someone opens the door for me (inflicting help), it throws me off balance. Oops.

We do the same thing at work. If someone wants to know how something works, it is often easier to do it for them. But that’s not what the person needs. The other person needs us to walk them through how to do that procedure, so they know how.

Or, one of my common problems, is when I’m listening to someone explain a problem, to offer a solution. I need to slow down and ask, “Would you like some help?” Sometimes people just want a sympathetic ear. Sometimes they want help. I need to ask, not just offer help.

It’s all too easy to inflict help instead of offer help. That’s one of the nice things about the third question in an agile standup: where do you have obstacles? If you say you have an obstacle, that’s an explicit, honest, open request for help. If you don’t say anything, you’re not asking for help. Of course, you can say, you have a confusion, instead of an obstacle. It’s all in how you frame it.

As you proceed through your day, do feel free to hold doors for others. Being kind to other people is not always inflicting help! If you hold a door for me, I will still find a way to maintain my balance :-) And, think of ways that you may be inflicting help on other people. Are you interrupting their stories with advice? Are you jumping to conclusions about their code or projects? Consider asking for feedback about not inflicting help. You may be surprised about how others see you.

1 thought on “Inflicting Help vs. Asking for Help”

  1. hihi, I’m thoughed I was pretty good at not rescuing people.
    I’m also pretty sure I did open the door for you at Belgium Testing Days.

    If you look at the “mother role” (as in the stereotype), that role is made to help her children. The father role has the opposite function. as in ” help children to be able to stand on their own feet.
    Children need both to grow up as healthy adults. Unfortunatly somehow in our culture we are so much rescued that we are discouraged to ask for help.
    Some jobs attract people who have more tendencies for the mother or the father role. Coaches (just as nurses) have the tendency to like the mother role and thus rescue people.

    The result is when they leave the members of the team are less capable of standing on their own.


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