3 Keys to Helping, not Harming

  • 3 Keys to Helping, not Harming

    Coaches are part of the helping community. This means, aside from coaching, each of us are very likely to help in other ways too. Some of us volunteer in care homes, give pro bono work to charities, step in when friends are in need, and are the first to jump in to help during family crises.


    In my early days as a coach, my teachers invited me to explore the ethics of caring. I’m very grateful for that foundational awareness. After all, in the general population, ‘caring’ is often mistaken for other types of engagements——fixing, meddling, unsolicited advice, bossing around, telling it like it is and even, at times, controlling abuse. Think how many stories you’ve heard about ‘caregivers’ abusing those in their charge.


    So, how do we, as professionals in the caring community, take responsibility and hold ourselves and each other accountable to be consistently helping rather than harming?


    A number of years ago, my partner at Envision Coach Training, Dr. Jeff Evans, developed the 3 Meta Competencies. These Competencies are held as foundational to all other competencies—coaching or otherwise—and time and again I’ve watched them raise the odds that helpers stay on the right side of the equation.


    Intention is the consciousness we put onto manifesting anything. We have to be conscious about our actions and the intent we have behind them, otherwise we’re simply reacting to stimulus. Every one of us has agenda, both obvious and hidden. So, we ask, what is my intent here? what do I want for this person? what do I want for myself? Starting with these questions allows clarity of purpose and means we act from awakened mindfulness.


    Each human being should be given the choice to, at least, be heard. When we’re supporting an aged parent, for example, who may no longer have their full mental faculties, it may be tempting to run over their ‘crazy’ logic and just decide for them because we’re so busy knowing “what’s best”. But we must still give them the dignity of our listening. A compromised, weakened person (no matter if it’s due to illness or job loss) is unable to fully stand for themselves as they might have before, so we must. We must inquire ever more intently, listen ever more closely, and seek ever more diligently to understand.


    Compassion is essential for any exchange, and especially when a person is suffering. In moments of deep vulnerability, the buffer between ourselves and others is all but gone. We feel every blissful moment of a person’s loving compassion, as well as the overwhelming pain of each unkind action. A helper without compassion risks being cruel. One with compassion to guide them is capable of providing extraordinary support.


    Truly helping others requires conscious intention, inquiry, listening, patience, respect for choice, and most of all, kindness. Without those things, we risk the ego tricking us into thinking we’re doing “good”, when we’re actually pushing our own agenda into a vulnerable person’s life. We see ourselves as the hero, when in reality, we’re part of a new problem.


    Helping isn’t so much about what we do for others, it’s how we do it.

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