Continuing my theme of “help”… I now discuss the issue of helping someone as opposed to just taking over and controlling everything for them. This is a subject that many deaf and hard of hearing people know all too well – “do-gooders” who might have the best of intentions and who truly believe they are helping…but in reality are doing more harm than good. Many of us have horror stories we could share of such situations – the interpreter who interjects her opinions and gives you advice you were not requesting (and isn’t her role to be giving in the first place); the tutor who rather than help you with your English, insists on writing your paper for you; the social worker who takes care of all your problems instead of teaching you how to resolve them yourself.
Of course, this issue is not limited strictly to deaf/hearing interactions. People in general have issues with the concept of help, as opposed to control. This can happen regardless of whether you are deaf, hearing, male, female, young, old, etc.
What’s important is to remember that helping is about empowering others, it’s not about doing for them.
In any case, read on…
Okay. We’ve discussed the concept of helping.
You are going to politely offer your help, and wait until the other person accepts it before you do anything.
But they did accept your help. They wanted your help.
So now what do you do?
Very simple…you do what they ask you to do.
Nothing more and nothing less.
How many of you have known a person who was always eager to “help” – who constantly offered to help. S/he wasn’t always pushy about it…but just kept constantly asking, bringing it up over and over again, frequently offering.
But you were always nervous to accept that help, because you knew that if you said “Yes,” this person would think that meant they could take over and take control of everything?
I’m sure you know the type…this person immediately swoops down, totally ignores you and what you are saying, doesn’t pay any attention when you try to explain what it is you want, and then goes ahead and does the whole thing themselves (with maybe a little assistance from you), treating the whole project as if it was their own, and finishing the whole job themselves.
Then to add insult to injury, they expect you to admire their work, and tell them you could have never done it without their assistance.
And of course, they take credit for it as well.
Never mind that it was your project, and you were simply asking for a little help.
Never mind that you were looking forward to doing the project yourself (with a little bit of help!)….Never mind that you probably could have done it yourself.
It really wouldn’t have been all that hard, and then when it was finished, you would have had what you wanted, not what this “friend” thought you wanted.
You asked for help, and by Goddess, you’re gonna get it!
The problem is…you weren’t expecting this person to build the bookshelf for you. All you wanted were directions on how to use the belt sander.
Do you see where I’m coming from, Gentle Reader?
An offer to help should be an offer to be a consultant or an employee, not a boss.
If someone really asks you to just take over, because they are completely out of their depth, or need to go do something else…
Then, and only then…is it OK to treat it like your project.
And once you do offer and such offer is accepted, you should be the best consultant or employee that you can be.
If what they need is information, then give them the information they asked for as completely as you can.
Don’t ignore their request for directions on how to use the belt sander and tell them about the orbital sander instead.
If you think they are about to make a mistake, it is perfectly alright to say “I’ll tell you about the belt sander if you really want me to, but I am thinking that perhaps the orbital sander would do a better job on that bookshelf, because if I understood you correctly, you don’t want to sand the veneer completely off, you just want to smooth it, right?”
This will give them a chance to either ask you why the belt sander will take the veneer off, inquire what you mean by veneer, or tell you that, as a matter of fact, they hate this veneer and it’s gotta go!
Don’t make the choices and decisions for them. Give them the advantage of your experience, but let them use it or ignore it as they will.
It’s their life.
They are the ones who will be living with the results of their decisions.
Special thanks to Robin Wood – Pagan leader, author, artist, and teacher extraordinaire – whose writings on ethics (including her excellent book on the subject – “When, Why…If”) have played a key role in helping me to develop my own understanding of living an ethical life.