It’s very normal to associate “being helpful” with doing something tangible. For example, people help by giving information, offering advice, making connections, or, on a very practical level, providing tangible supports like making a meal, childminding, or giving someone a ride.
It can be much harder to recognize that the most helpful “things” aren’t very active or tangible at all. It can be very helpful to simply listen to someone – to provide a safe space for someone to tell his or her story and, in doing that, begin to see both patterns and inconsistencies. Relating authentically to someone can be helpful as well – people crave trusting, respectful relationships and they need to know they matter. Especially where there’s a power imbalance or gap in social justice, advocacy can be extremely helpful.
In a recent workshop, a learner reflected that she’d learned to talk less and listen more – to stop providing standard information and, instead, to ask open-ended questions to learn more about her clients’ needs. What profound learning . . . learning that is sure to forever change her clients’ experience.
If you’d like to learn more about being helpful, consider joining the Helping Skills to Facilitate Career Development course in our Career Management Professional Program, beginning on September 26, 2018.