The "could", "should", and "ready to" concepts of helping

The “could”, “should”, and “ready to” concepts of helping

If anyone, be it a stranger, child, or people you live or associate with, never approach you seeking your counsel about the concerns in their lives, then check or investigate your relationship or communication with people.


At some point, many if not all of us have ever taken a Boda ride, and these Boda guys start telling you issues about their personal life. You felt like you wanted to apprise, ”stop, that doesn’t concern me,” but you had to pray to reach your destination. Or even you kept ‘humming’ or even ‘ohing’ uncomfortably or even amazed asking yourself ‘why is this person telling me all this?’


Mentally, this keeps them upright although, you don’t respond affirmatively or negatively to their issues. Listening is healing.

Yes! It changes their mental state, but how about us, the hijacked listeners. Are we always ready to play the ‘hijacked helper role’? How we feel always affects how we react towards others; we can envision this in either verbal or nonverbal reactions towards people’s concerns.

Lack of empathy blocks our ability to understand people’s disquietude, as well as how we react and respond to people in need of help.

At some juncture, people will always come to us seeking help, be it financial, emotional but will we help this person? Are we ready to help them? We shall always remain in the limbo of ‘could help’, ‘should help’ and ‘ready to help’ concepts.




If someone comes to us with an overwhelming problem and we don’t know how we can be helpful, we feel that the problem is not something we can do anything about – for example, a patient comes to the hospital for treatment, and they end up asking for a job. Or someone comes but, we feel we don’t have enough time, the necessary skills to help – for example, a student coming to a teacher seeking funds for heart surgery. You feel you could have done something but, you are neither a doctor nor in a position to pay for surgery.




There are times when we feel we can do something to help but, we shouldn’t/will not help. It is so when we don’t think the person will listen to our advice. Perhaps, other people will look down on us for helping the person. Or we see this person as interfering in our regular work. Or we blame the person for their problem, for example, if someone has run bankrupt due to gambling or getting health problems due to smoking or alcoholism.




Sometimes we may be having all the necessary skills and time. Unfortunately, we are unwell emotionally either when anxious, worried, afraid or even hungry: this deters our readiness to help a person.


What to do when we are stuck in the conundrum?


Being stuck doesn’t imply confusion. Rather, it conveys that you have multiple options. And you are still figuring out what to do first or how to go about with an issue.


How to turn ‘couldn’t help’ to ‘could help’?


1. Think of something you can accomplish best; setting an achievable goal for yourself is crucial. Let’s say someone needs financial or emotional or any other type of help: your goal must be within something you can offer. Above this, you will fail. 

2. Create room to listen; have you ever met someone, and they thanked you so much for helping – and looked confused when all you did was listen to their issues? When we feel listened to, connected to, and understood by others, this feels good psychologically.

When we feel heard, the pain feels less, even inflammation in the body goes down: our immune system gets strong. Even if the only thing we do is create a room to listen, it implies you “can do” something. Remember, it costs nothing to listen, and you don’t even have to say anything.

3. Always have resources in place to help. Ask yourself do you always have the space, skills or experience needed? If not, do you have the information for a referral? And if yes, you have helped. If not, honestly communicate. You don’t always have to explain a lot to the people in need. If you are honest with yourself, those in need will always understand.

The "could", "should", and "ready to" concepts of helping
Help to be helped.
Getty Images


How to turn ‘shouldn’t help’ to ‘should help’?


1. Remember that we hardly know any detail of a person’s life. Each time someone seeks your help, and you find that they are to blame for their actions, say, an alcoholic, remember you know nothing about their lives. By the time they have come for your help, they are willing to change.

2. When you feel that you shouldn’t help because you have more important things to do or that this may disrupt, you can think about ways to change the circumstances to set up the possibility of helping someone. It may be an appointment with a person during the most favourable time.


Respect. We earn it.


How to turn a ‘not ready to help’ to ‘ready to help?


1. Before helping, you must recognize what you feel and be aware of that. If you are angry, acknowledge that you are and find a way of dealing with your anger before having an audience with the person in need of help. This anger may block your thought process and interfere with your ability to help.

2. You can also engage in relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, muscle relaxations, et cetera.

3. Sharing with others/colleagues; this involves seeking professional guidance on how best we can help people.

4. Prioritizing self-care. When we don’t take of ourselves, it becomes difficult to help others. Aspects like good quality sleep, diet, and doing meaningful things such as time with family, religious or spiritual activities, and sports are prudent.

Helping should not leave you in abject poverty. If it does, you are doing it the wrong way.

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