Offering “help” to someone could end up in a battle?

Publication 12, Issue 4

Who knew?…Think about it before you offer to help!

Have you ever had an unexpected communication exchange with someone after you offered to help?  Or maybe received a strange look or a negative response?  While an offer to help is usually genuine, in many cases in can fall flat. We have judgments around “offering to help because our way might be better, faster, etc.” and that’s where the “rub” comes into play.  We’re managers…we’re supposed to “help” at work, right?  Read on.

I’m reminded of a story. My niece, a Steamroller, wrote an essay for her English class, and left it on the kitchen table.  My sister-in-law, a Peacemaker (and a Masters-educated, New York State Board Certified Teacher), saw the essay, read it and made a few edits, all in the spirit of “helping” her daughter learn and get a good grade. When my niece saw the edits, she replied, “Mom, if I wanted your help, I would have asked you!”  Needless to say, the ride in the car to school was quiet.

Well, I’m here to tell you that my 7th Grade niece today, who is smart, athletic, independent and pretty, will turn into an executive who will still subscribe to this “help” notion:  “I’m okay with your telling me “what” to do, just don’t tell me “how” to do it, unless I ask!”  Funny how that works!

Of course, every situation is different.  So check out your intention before you offer to help and know that each of the Playground Personalities© may receive the offer of “help” differently:

  • Peacemakers – graciously, but have feelings that people might think they can’t handle something.
  • Organizers – negatively, they don’t want anyone to “mess” with their processes and order.
  • Revolutionaries – keenly, they are so good at receiving help, they can get people to do their jobs for them!
  • Steamrollers – cautiously, they ask themselves, “Why would I need help from her?  Does she think I’m not smart enough to do this on my own?”

So, if you want to make an offer of help, think “why” (intention)  and “who” you are communicating with, first.  Check out these exchanges to get you started with the:

  • Peacemaker – “I would be happy to help you, please let me know what I can do for you.”
  • Organizer – “Once you get your checklist finalized, assign me a task.”
  • Revolutionary – “Give me a holler if you need something from me!”
  • Steamroller – “You are the expert. I am here if you want to bounce around some ideas.”

Be courageous and test these out the next time you are ready to offer to help.  These “starters” will make your interactions go flawlessly, I promise!


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