Why Being Too Helpful Can Backfire: Advice From Author Annette R. Johnson

In need of some advice? Check out this excerpt from Annette R. Johnson’s What’s Your Motivation?: Identifying and Understanding What Drives You:

Ever use computer software that starts doing “extra” things you didn’t want or it keeps asking if you want to do things of which you have no interest? For instance, the program starts numbering things and wanting to create lists and so forth, but you don’t want that, at least not yet. The program is just TOO HELPFUL, and it drives you crazy! That program is like some of us. We are just too helpful, so much so that people generally and routinely come to us for granted.

What’s the motivation for being too helpful? Usually these individuals want to be liked, loved or accepted. They typically need lots of affirmation and reassurance. They don’t think they are good enough for simply just existing as is; they feel, instead, that they must audition or win others over with their kindness. Their self-worth is based on how valuable or necessary they are to others. This is a slippery slope or unstable foundation because if a person rejects the “helpfuls” assistance, the helpfuls take it personally and attack themselves or the other person. In fact, highly independent people are not useful to helpfuls, as independent-minded people don’t need their assistance.

Sometimes helpful people assist to the point where they are used, abused or eventually discarded. What they forgot was that while they were loving and helping another, they were not getting the same in return. Helpfuls don’t usually seek mutually beneficial relationships. However, this is absolutely necessary for a successful, lasting relationship of any kind. When we give to narcissists or takers, they just keep expecting or taking, but people are at their best when they are giving, not always receiving.

Sometimes helpfuls create taking or selfish monsters, usually their own children or mates, because they never require or even suggest that they be supported. Quite often, it has become a habit for them to be overlooked, so they don’t even think about it. Still, many times, you will hear helpfuls complaining about being used or taken for granted. However, people only do to others what they are allowed to do.

Do all helpful people have low self-worth? Absolutely not! Some helpful types have boundaries, setting healthy, reasonable limits to their assistance. They, for example, know better than to help people do something they could do for themselves. They also know that help is for a time, not continual or perpetual. As such, they guard themselves against over-reliance or dependency.

Yes, we are to help people get on their feet or overcome a challenge. However, we are not to take on their burden entirely, especially to the point where we are neglecting our own needs. We may see this occur in a parent doing homework for a child or a wife cutting the grass in addition to taking care of the children and other household responsibilities. We may see someone lying to authorities in order to keep his/her relative out of jail. All of these are forms of destructive helping that harms the individual being helped, keeping the person from beneficial consequences, and harms you, keeping you subject to being needed rather than loved or respected.

Here’s the Rule: We are to help people with the expectation of receiving nothing, but that help should come with a reasonable limit and the goal of making the person independent. We should never help so much that people become dependent or addicted to us. If so, we are robbing them of an opportunity to become the best people they can be, and we are hurting our opportunity to gain genuine appreciation or respect.

Annette R. Johnson is the author of What’s Your Motivation?: Identifying and Understanding What Drives You (2 Ed.) The book is available for $14.95. Find out more at www.whatmotivation.com or whatmotivation on Twitter and Facebook.


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