Do you have trouble finding an adequate balance between helping others and meeting your personal responsibilities or duties? Ever felt overwhelmed when helping, or getting help? If so, you may find the following article helpful. Briefly, it outlines the concept of problem ownership in relation to helping behaviour, and enlists the aid of communication skills, boundary identification, and the facilitation of independence, in so doing.
According to Peer Helping (1990), effective communication and effective helping behaviour involve four distinct skills:
1. Reflective Listening
2. Exploring Alternatives
4. Handling Conflict
Each skill is valuable. Each also works best, in a particular context. But, which is best for what context? In answering this question, we must first determine who truly owns the problem (or, opportunity for growth).
Who Owns the Problem or Opportunity for Growth?
Identifying who owns the problem tells us who has responsibility for solving or handling the problem. According to Peer Helping (1990), it is important "to determine who owns the problem because owning the problem means accepting responsibility for handling the problem." Sometimes when we are asked for help, we may assume that we own the problem. This is not always true. Solving a problem that in truth belongs to another, can have a few important repercussions both upon the person we are trying to help, and upon ourselves. Doing so may reduce a person's self-esteem by making him or her dependent on you, and further, doing so may stall, hinder, or delay the other person's personal development, in terms of him or her learning how to take responsibility for his or her actions (Peer Helping, 1990).
Peer Helping (1990)
further suggests asking a few questions to help uncover who owns the
problem. Some of these include:
In general, if
the person with whom you are talking owns the problem, begin with reflective
listening and then move to exploring
Helping, 1990). If you own the problem, begin with I-messages and then move to handling conflict (Peer Helping, 1990).
In some situations, you might also think about enlisting the aid of professional services. For example, in cases of sexual assault, death, or other traumas, certified professionals who make it their life's work to deal with these more serious situations should in fact be better able to manage the complexity that may arise from these issues. They have had the training in order to be able to do so, will also have a wider variety of resources on hand, and are (or should be) accountable to a regulatory board, in addition.
...But, what if you find yourself the owner of a particular opportunity for growth, try the exercises listed here, explore the subject matter in greater depth using other resources, and find no resolution? You might, for example, find yourself using I-messages to a flurry of defensive, abusive, surprising behaviour, or aggressive tactics. In such cases, consider a deeper search re: "boundaries" to examine more material, and, do consider talking the situation over with a friendly counsellor in order to better unravel the intricacies of your situation. You might also consider attending a Kriyayoga Meditation session or 3, as taught by Guruji Swami Shree Yogi Satyam. Finally, you might also find yourself thinking about accepting difference in others, valuing difference in yourself, and re-evaluating your desire and ability to maintain certain relationships, or relationship patterns. You might reconsider, redefine or restructure your relationships in ways that better nurture both yourself and others.
When we undertake situation-appropriate communication, identify who owns the opportunity for growth, and know our present limitations (i.e. resources, time, etc.), we are more likely to facilitate a sense of well-being within ourselves and others as we help. By bettering our helping behaviour, we can also help encourage self-sufficiency and esteem in others.
Peer Helping. 1990. J. Weston Walch (publisher). Pp. 34-35.