How to Be Helpful

The best way to be helpful is to listen, ask how you can help, listen, start helping, ask if this is helpful, listen, finish precisely what the person said would be useful. And repeat.

We all want to believe that we are helpful. Too often we force our view of what will be beneficial on other people. If we think it would be helpful if someone organized all of our emails by alphabetical first name, we try to build a system that will do it for everyone because we want to be helpful.

To be most helpful you must be humble enough to listen to what someone else is saying, and restrained enough to do it in the way that is helpful to them. Unfortunately, sometimes we want everyone to see how amazing it is if they were to see the world that you do. What ends up happening is that you are suddenly asking people to change their approach to match yours. These are the same people you were supposed to be helping.

There is a place for offering improvements and suggestions, but only after you have helped someone at the place where they are. Help with what people want help with; then you will be in a great place to ask questions about other ways that this could work. And these questions can lead to exploring the alternatives together. But make sure that you are listening, not just pretending while you are waiting to speak.

You are most helpful when you are listening, and doing what someone says will be useful.