Draft, 95+% complete, so go ahead and use it...

Should you "help" another? 

The answer is dependent on a number of factors, as covered in the discussion.  

We humans get a good dose of good feelings from "acts of kindness".  And when we "serve others", we have good feelings about ourselves - and a good opinion of ourselves.  All these contribute to our happiness.

However, there is a difference between helping appropriately (usefully, in a way that works) and helping in a way that does not work. 

Sometimes we help our friends out, or think we are, when we engage in, and reinforce, a friendship based on problems and helping each other out with them, in a perpetual "blind leading the blind" and helping each other be "victimish" (and wallowing in the pit of feeling dependent). 

So, the question is "where do we draw the line in a way that works for the greatest total good of all concerned, with no harm".   (That is the very definition of "ethics", which would best be the way to run our lives.  The problem is that we will, fairly often, creep over into "morality".  See Ethics And Morality - One Is Practical, The Other Is Trying To Be Practical.)

The discussion that follows may be much more important than you think, as it is a major determinant of how much YOU will get out of your life, for yourself and in terms of making a difference "out there". 

And there are many trite sayings and rules out there that are, like many contrived "cultural" myths, just plain not true - and even at crosspurposes to our "good intent".

The bottomline:   At least 95% of the time, one should restrain him/herself from offering unsolicited advice - and instead spend the energy on higher payoff efforts! 

And the related principle, which frees up a huge amount of time and wasted effort in life is to seek to control the uncontrollable or marginally influenceable.  Read Control - Its Proper Use: Stop The Waste, Increase Your Power.  


One of the lessons taught early on in life improvement courses is to stop spending your energy on what is not your job and what will mostly do no good. 

People largely don't take advice.  They sometimes look like they do, but watch to see if they actually implement it!!!! 

The payoffs for all of this are largely non-existent. 

And for those people who keep on persisting despite resistance, they might pay attention to this message to "just back off" or "mother! I'd rather do it myself!"

And then there is the admonition to never try to teach a raccoon to sing.  First of all, he'll never learn to sing.  And, second' you'll just piss him off!  

An example is the mother trying to get the diabetic daughter (who is now 60) to eat healthily - it never seems to make any difference.  (However, if the mother is realistic about the lack of probable results but chooses to go ahead on "the possibility" AND uses the psychology of effective change, the remote possibility might, maybe, perhaps, be worth the risk...)

Though most such efforts are futile, we do find it "oh, so tempting". 


Yes, and some of our advice is correct.

But sometimes we wonder if it makes sense to give advice on how to live life if the person giving the advice is not doing all that well!    

And sometimes it is about "false control":  the feeling that we can exert control over others and/or fix how they feel.  As a child, I thought that I could somehow, magically, fix my mother's anxiety.  Not until later did I see that it was something over which she was the only one to have control. 


A co-dependent encourages, sometimes in subtle ways, others to be dependent on them and/or to rescue them.  It is, many times, a well-meant effort, but it mostly results in damage.   This is discussed in Do I Have Some Patterns Or Characteristics Of Codependence?

Some people give advice so that they will be considered to be a "good person" in their view of themselves and/or in the eyes of another.  They might be seeking to be liked, but, in truth, they might best use other means that are much healthier and which are better strategies for having a good friendship. 

Some people give advice in order to have "higher status" in their own eyes, perhaps even feeling superior because of their being so wise.  But often this results in alienation and having fewer friends, for who really wants to be around someone trying to be superior and who is jockeying for position.   These people will often gather others around them who are of a less effective ilk - and they'll give up the good influence and effect of being around more powerful people (who need no advice!).

If we can't solve something on our own or can use some support, it makes a difference if we are doing it from a "dependency, I'm weak" point of view or from a "I'm not dependent, I am 100% responsible for my life" point of view.  In the latter case, when we seek partnership, we do it out of the wisdom of knowing the value of "interdependency", which I discuss in Dependence, Independence, and Interdependence.  In the "interdependency but not dependent" mode, I will choose to solve the dilemma myself even if the outside resource doesn't help - but I see that it will be more effective if I use an outside resource - which is not "chickening out", but is merely being wise with one's energy.


Obviously, there can be exceptions with regard to the advice actually being of benefit to another person.  Extremely careful judgment and wisdom should be exercised here. 

At least 95% of the time, one should restrain him/herself from offering unsolicited advice. 

Of course, if you have god-like qualities and the highest of wisdom, do, by all means, consider your advice to be golden and life changing.  If you are perhaps a little short of super wisdom, be judicious and limited in your advice giving.  Just go live your life well and inspire other people to follow your example - you'll do alot more good doing that.  So spend your efforts on making yourself magnificent and you'll benefit mankind much, much more.  Review Marianne Williamson's famous "Powerful Beyond Measure", which Mandela used in his inauguration speech. 


"But...but...but...!   I feel so good when I do it and it is such an act of kindness." 

Well, if you feel good about it then it might be that there is a benefit to you, so that might cause you to judge to go ahead and ignore the suggestion not to provide unsolicited advice. 

But you also might look at other ways you could perform good acts of kindness that have you feeling good.  And your relationships, I can practically guarantee you, will be better off.

And putting your attention on giving advice or being wise and "helpful" might take your attention away from other matters that have a much bigger payoff for you. 


I admire the respect given to others by the people who say:  "I might have something that could be of use to you.  Is that something you'd like to hear about?" 

(At that point, the other person might feel a bit of pressure to look "open" and/or be polite.  But recognize that they most probably will not act on your advice.  But at least you'll probably not be resented.)


Powerful people, virtually by definition, will not waste their power (time and effort) on doing things that have low or no payoff.   They will instead spend the limited time they have on doing what is of the highest payoff.  And, since they become good at judging where the higher payoffs are, they will often note that advice is a usually poor payoff activity.  Instead they will, judiciously, be supportive and empathetic.

Only when they sense that there will be a good solid net benefit will they even open their mouths to give advice/help.   And they will tend to give the go ahead to themselves only after receiving permission (where the person indicates he will listen), in what is judged to be good circumstances (where there will be sufficient time to listen), and using good coaching questions that are conducive to effective change.

And, as a result of their judiciousness and carefulness, they will give advice less than 5% of the times that the "helper types" will tend to give advice.  Nevertheless, despite the low frequency, they will create many times the net benefit.


For those more deeply curious:  (I put my comments in italics.)

Q & A

Q.  I just read the attached first post and it all sounds right to me?  As my brother used to say, all generalities are false. Does it sound correct to you, or would you modify it? The gist of it is basically "good" , as far as it goes, mostly.   , After our last conversation where you said never to help people unless they request it not exactly what I said, or what I meant anyway!---- I still am puzzled and sorting out the answer for myself. Good, ultimately you should "sort it out for yourself"" , but with a bit more information of you end up making decisions without using "" effective thinking."   She in this post never addresses that point about requesting help. 

We talk about the need for compassion -- and that certainly is very important.  Yes, it is, as discussed in Compassion - For Yourself First, Then For Others, but there is some danger of misunderstanding that needs to be heeded there.  If you don't have it for yourself, it is likely that you do not yet know how to truly be compassionate.  (See also the corollary links from that page.  - So just  trying to reconcile seemingly disparate concepts.  Good!

If you have the time, I would appreciate your thoughts on this.  Like you said, you have read widely, and have been able  -- unlike others -- to distill/interpret what you have read.


P.S.  Doesnt helping others (even if not requested) also depend on the nature of the relationship?  Of course, it could vary, but judicious use of this is appropriate.  The test, of course, would be:  Would your choice to intervene be effective (i.e. get results) or just be irritating?  Families and some friends get into a spiral of "just being helpful" and end up nowhere and/or in codependency land, where they will have succeeded in hurting the other's self efficacy, at a huge, huge cost to both parties.   Wouldnt you assist in some way  a sib or your significant other if you saw that they were having health issues, or some other huge challenge like losing their fortune, or a loved one? Yep, though it would be based on using some judgment.  I intervened with my "step niece" , figuring that the possible resentment and possible lack of results was worth the potential gain.  I asked her to go into a separate room with me and stated very strongly that I thought she was making a huge life changing mistake if she married that jerk.  She didn't marry him, either because of what I said or because of her beginning to think about it more carefully - or who knows what.  Anyway, the possible payoff was worth the cost, in my estimation,  And would you not want that in return from the intimate people in your life -- without your having to ask for it? Yes, I would, as long as they would back off if I asked that.  I personally have been very open to it and don't mind it, but that is not true of others.  I might tend to err on the side of trying to be helpful inappropriately.  However, I have hugely cut down on that, being sure to only intervene when it is a good place to spend my ammunition.   I am truly not trying to be argumentative....rather for my own growth , I am trying ti come up with something that really works for me personally.  Good, because learning what one can control (and influence) and what one cannot plus learning where to put one's energy is a major, major benefit in life.  If you read We Can Do No Better Than The Limits Of Our Awareness and learn what Sufficient Awareness is, then you will note the point at which helping remove a lack of awareness may not be wise.  For instance, I overdid it in my marriage, and it became ineffective and irritating and alienating.

Excerpts from the article (that was attached, at Helping Others Helps Us All:  We're All In This Together.)

"This is the part that many of us miss. We are so focused on “finding me,” on healing ourselves, that we walk on our individual paths looking down at our feet. We forget the fellow travellers around us. And this is where our ability to fully heal is lost, because we cannot do it alone."   We, of course, have zero obligation to help another fellow human being, in the real sense of that word, but we can decide that it is good and useful and when we should do it - and use our judgment and wisdom.  (The "obligation"  world exists in the same made up world as " Right/wrong".)

"So I ask you, every time you feel the instinct rise, like a whale breaching in the center of your soul, with the urge to reach out and share words of love, gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, appreciation, hope, and healing, do it."  Every time?  Or judiciously?

"Every time you feel the desire to give a stroke, kiss, hug, gift, or smile, but you think it makes no difference, or that you don’t have time, do it."  Every time?  And, yes, I would tend to err on the generous side, if I felt there was a legitimate benefit.


Does it serve me (a net benefit greater than the cost)?

Will it work? (Truly, over time)

Does it violate appropriate boundaries?