Stop Helping Me!

Are you attracting people who want to help, but you don't really want help?

Posted Apr 10, 2020

Source: warren-wong/Unsplash

Getting locked into a role can really limit you. It puts you into a box, and then people think they know who you are. You may have been labeled in many ways throughout your life, some positive and some not so positive.

Maybe you were the class clown, the smart one, the pretty one, the clumsy one, or the athletic one. Perhaps you were labeled the kind one or the bully. All labels can limit who you really are. And one label is being the person who needs help. Are you seen by others as the person who repeatedly needs help?

Of course, you need help sometimes. We all do. But most likely, you don't always need help. And it can be annoying to have people try to help you when you don't need or want assistance.

Unwanted help is completely different from helpful help. Are you having the experience of not needing help, not wanting help, but people not listening to you? They may be focused on giving you advice, changing your clothing style, solving problems that you are fine with taking care of on your own, giving you the name of a good therapist, recommending books, and otherwise offering unsolicited, unhelpful help. 

When people offer unhelpful, unasked-for help, they may be doing so because they care and are worried about you. There are so many kind individuals in the world, too, who try to look out for others. Other people may be offering help because they see their value in life as helping others. If they can help you, then that means they are worthy and valuable. So their helping may actually, under the surface, be about making themselves feel good. They look for people to help and well, gosh darn, they found you. So unhelpful helping is often about the person offering help. Regardless of whether it's about being kind and caring, or it's about the helper feeling valuable, receiving help when you don't want it can be upsetting, especially if it happens over and over. 

If you find that you repeatedly attract rescuers, then maybe that's not so random. Perhaps you are communicating in some way you aren't aware of that you need help. You might be doing that through the words you use: "I don't know what to do," "I am so confused," or "This is overwhelming," could all be statements that mean you are considering options, expressing temporary confusion, or need some time. But others can hear those statements as meaning you need someone else to step in and take charge. You may unintentionally be communicating that you need help by the words that you use. 

What about nonverbal communication? First, consider your facial expression. When you are trying to solve a problem or figure out a confusing situation, do you tend to look confused? Hopeless? Sad? Body posture can add to the message. If you slump over or become tense, people tend to read that as giving up or being scared. People want to help others, and if your face says you are in need, then people will likely respond with offers of help or even try to step in and take over.   

You're in a business meeting, and your slides aren't showing up on the screen. You happen to be quite skilled with technology. However you say in a quaky voice, "I don't know what is happening," or "It worked just a few minutes ago," and you look scared. Then it's really likely that someone will step up to help you. If you are skilled at something, having others who are well-intentioned but less skilled attempt to help can be distracting and interfere with effective problem-solving.

So if you don't want others to help, then you may want to both verbally and nonverbally signal confidence instead. "Give me just a minute here," said with a strong voice. Keep your face relaxed. If someone still offers to help, you can say, "I think I've got this, but thanks; I'll let you know if I don't."

Sending verbal and nonverbal messages of needing help can complicate relationships with family members too. You may be focused on being independent and making your own decisions, and it's annoying to you when your family jumps in to tell you what to do. Perhaps you are sending them a message that you can't make your own decisions? Take a look at how you are interacting with them when you have a problem or a difficult decision to make. 

Finally, how do you respond when people offer to help, and you don't want the help? Sometimes people tend to become annoyed, walk away, or stay quiet and fume. Communicating the truth can be helpful. Maybe the person is offering help that isn't helpful because they aren't addressing the real issue. In that case, point out to them that you don't need help with that issue, but what you are really struggling with a different problem. That helps the other person address what the real issue is. If you don't want help at all, consider something like, "Thanks, I appreciate the advice, but right now, I just need some time to think this through."  

Perhaps the truth is that many times you don't want or need help at all. Be mindful of your words and your body language—the messages you are giving to others. Are you sending a message that you need help? Are you being clear that you don't want help?