Giving Others What They Need

As Re-booters, we’ve seen a lot. In fact, we’ve gathered a lifetime of data and our analysis shows us that the results Method A generates could probably be improved upon were we to implement Method B. We’re not getting what we want out of life, so we experiment with ways to upgrade our outcome.

Excellent plan.

Much of re-booting is a self-centered process, and I mean this in a good way. But, there’s another element that should influence our calculations because we’re not lone wolves—we do, in fact, interact with the outside world on a daily basis—so our new methodology needs to include consideration for others. One of the goals of successful Re-booters is to be of service in as best a way as we know how. Generally speaking, we use as a lodestar the questions, “Well, what would I want if I were in X’s position?” This is as empathetic an approach as anyone could hope for, but I contend that, in many cases, it falls short of the mark.

When wanting to help another, I propose that it is better to approach such matters with the frame of reference of what is it that they need, rather than what is it I’d like to offer. The best way to do so is to ask them, directly. “What would be helpful to you?” There will be times when X won’t know what they need or want in terms of assistance—perhaps they are still reeling from whatever blow they’ve just absorbed, but often they will have an answer. And it may be an answer that surprises you since you’d never want that particular brand of help or support.

Re-booters go to enormous effort to clarify who they are and what is important to them; they are also the same folks who wish to provide succor to those around them in a way that is truly valuable to the intended recipients. This may seem like an obvious statement, but I bet you can think of instances in your life where a well-intentioned soul tried to help and missed the mark, entirely. By means of explanation, “He means well,” just doesn’t cut it—you can do better than this.

Taking the time and careful thought to ask someone who’s hurting what they need is a vulnerable thing to do because we’re admitting we don’t know. And in times of stress, we wish to prove ourselves well equipped to shore up the faltering, so we spring into action, bypassing that quiet moment where we look the grieving in the eye and experience their sense of confusion and loss. “How may I help you? What do you need?”

The humility that accompanies such questions can feel excruciating; it is painful to watch someone we care about suffer and have no idea what to do about it. If you’re anything like me, doing something provides a reassuring yet false sense of control over a situation that has nothing to do with me. I have come to the conclusion that while I might know what I would want in terms of support, it’s far more effective to ask. And if X doesn’t have an answer, then I can register their bewildered silence before offering up ideas of my own. I encourage you to make yourself vulnerable enough to ask, to acknowledge their hurt, to comfort them in the gentlest of ways.

My point in this post is to remind us that, as well intentioned as we may be, what we think is best may not be what our friend most needs. Give them what they request rather than imposing a solution of your own.

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One Response to “Giving Others What They Need”

  1. Tony C Says:

    Like many (most?) men, I always struggle NOT to try and “fix” the problem, but rather to ask what I can do to provide comfort or assistance. Thanks for the reminder!

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