Often times, someone will try to help but fail. Instead, the person who tries to help will make things worse. This happens, very often. When this happens, it is very important for the person who is trying to help to recognize that intent does not equate to reality. Just because you want to help, doesn’t mean you will succeed in helping. Just because you acted with the intent to help, doesn’t mean your actions will help. As the person giving help, you must take responsibility for the consequences of your actions, regardless of your intent.
A brief story. Someone tried to help me, and they said some things that deeply hurt me. I was already hurt, so when they hurt me even more, I snapped past my breaking point and I lashed out at them. They then accused me of responding to help with anger, labeled me as dangerous, and distanced themselves from me. When I confronted them with the truth: that their “help” made me feel worse and they should be responsible for that outcome, they said: “No, our intent is good so that means you have to thank us for trying to help. We are absolved of any consequences because our intentions are good.”
Let’s unpack this. First, it’s important to realize that when you take an action, you should pay attention to the reaction to figure out what the reality of the situation is. If you take an action and the other person gets better, then you can assume that you helped. If you take an action and the other person gets worse, then you should assume that you made things worse. Too often people who take an action with the intent to help, blame the other person when the other person responds negatively. No, this is wrong. It’s not the other person’s responsibility to create a delusional reality for you where every time you try to help you succeed. You will fail sometimes. And when you do, you will get negative feedback and you have to listen to that feedback.
Second, everyone has a breaking point. A point where they are stressed to the point where they can’t take it anymore. When they are past their breaking point, they cannot act in self interest, they are acting in self destructive ways and they need external help to calm them down. If you meet someone in that state of mind, you need to be grounded in reality more than ever and make sure that for every action you take, you are measuring the reaction. It is up to you as the emergency responder to contribute effectively in reality, not in intention. Intention doesn’t matter if the action taken is counter productive. The place for intention is for after the episode is over, and you are debriefing in a safe place with other people. During the event, when you’re helping in live real time, stay present, stay in reality, stay focused on acting in a way that results in a positive feedback loop.
Third. Manage your emotions. Often times you are there to help the other person because you care about the other person and you want that person to get well. Don’t let your desire for the other person’s well being and your fear for the other person’s condition to blind you from reality and the truth. Often times, you are so nervous and stressed and worried about the other person that you yourself have become unfit for service. You pushed yourself past your own breaking point of sound, logical, reason, and you become blindly emotional in your overwhelming care for the other person. If you can catch yourself when this happens, take a breath, take a break, recollect yourself before deciding whether you can try again with a sound mind or not. A sound mind uses reality, uses feedback, looks at the target and sees if the actions taken are helping or worsening the situation to act accordingly and adapt accordingly.
Fourth. When someone confronts you over what you did during an event, recognize that they are not making it up. If someone confronts you and tells you how they perceived the situation and how they felt and how they were affected by your actions, acknowledge their story! Accept that to that person it is the truth! Then Apologize for the unintended consequences of your actions! Because you did take those actions, and you are now hearing the truth of how those actions were received! Then and only then, after you’ve Acknowledged, Accepted, and Apologized, can you begin to explain your point of view, what your intent was and your reasoning.
In life, there is the Intent and Goal that you want to achieve. There is the Strategy you choose to achieve that Goal. And there are the actions that you actually take to Execute on the Strategy you have chosen. Then, from the other person’s point of view, they See only the Actions you take. And they derive Feelings from their experience of your action, and they derive Interpretations of the situation based on who they are. Often times the Feelings and Interpretations they get are different from the Goal you set out to do. If that is the case, do not blame them for having wrong feelings and wrong interpretations. Recognize instead that your strategy and your execution did not succeed. Change yourself, because you can control yourself, and don’t count on the ability to change other people, because you can’t control others.
Here’s a podcast with some good tips on emotional validation, a communication skill that is very effective when it comes to giving help and helping someone feel better. It is about acknowledging and accepting the other person. The podcast tells you how to do it.
Seek to understand. If we understood each other people, we could care for one another better.