When Helping Too Much Has Harmful Results
What’s the Latest Development?
We all want to help our friends and loved ones but sociologists have found that helping too much—substituting our efforts for the efforts of those we’re trying to help—tends to blunt their chance of success. In general, say experts, the more involved parents become in their children’s education, the less satisfied students feel with their lives. In a related experiment, “women who thought about how their spouse was helpful with their health and fitness goals became less motivated to work hard to pursue those goals: relative to the control group, these women planned to spend one-third less time in the coming week pursuing their health and fitness goals.”
What’s the Big Idea?
To be sure, responsive and supportive relationships are the foundation of a healthy and productive life. So how do we know when to lend a hand and when not to? “In short, although much remains to be investigated, the findings thus far suggest that providing help is most effective under a few conditions: when the recipient clearly needs it, when our help complements rather than replaces the recipient’s own efforts, and when it makes recipients feel that we’re comfortable having them depend on us.” So don’t substitute your actions for the actions of another, but give support and encouragement, say researchers.
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