After I wrote last week’s post on why you shouldn’t say “Everything happens for a reason”, I got to thinking.
It’s all very well to listen to someone and support them, but what if they only want to use you as a dumping ground for all their woes?
They argue about every solution you offer and refuse to think more positively about their situation.
In essence, they’re a “help resistor”.
And, if you allow them to continue it will put strain on your relationship and drain you emotionally.
How can you help someone like this?
Martha Beck recommends three ways of dealing with people like this:
When someone resists your help, don’t force them to listen to you or do what you say. Back off and say, “Wow, you are in a fix! But I know you’ll figure it out!”
This will usually frustrate a help resister because they don’t want cheerleading, they want sympathy and concern.
But, if you’ve given bucket loads of this already, just keep putting the ball back in their court – “You’re pretty smart. You’ll find a way.”
NOTE: this light hearted approach is for the persistent complainer who whines about small, every day troubles and is not suitable in cases of trauma or really difficult situations.
It’s called the guy response because men often do it naturally while women tend to “offer sweaters and sandwiches to people who are actively burglarizing our homes”.[i]
The guy response is simply this: listen as the person describes the problem, then say, “Wow, you do have a problem… Hey, when are we going camping again?”
This may seem a bit harsh and uncaring, but remember, you’ve been doing the caring thing and it hasn’t worked.
NOTE: same as the previous point – this approach will not be suitable in cases of trauma or really tough situations.
Leading it means you tackle the situation head on and tell it like it is. Say something like:
“You obviously need some kind of support from me and I’ve been trying to give that, but it doesn’t seem to be helping you. It feels like you are resisting every suggestion I make. What is it that you really need from me?”
This honesty will help your friend get to the core of their problem instead of wallowing around in the symptoms.
Now they can let you know what they really need.
If loving it, leaving it, or leading it doesn’t work, then it’s time to set a boundary in place. Kind of like tough love.
Be straight and honest.
Letting the person know how you are feeling is itself a boundary.
Say, “I value our friendship and have tried to support you through this. You resist my help and I respect that. Because I respect your choice not to receive my help and support, I need to step back from our relationship because I feel you are using me as a dumping ground and that is beginning to harm our relationship.”
If they still don’t see the point, then spend less time with the person. You can’t change how others behave, but you can change what you tolerate in a relationship.
Establishing boundaries is not selfish and doesn’t mean you don’t care. To the contrary, it means you do care.
Healthy relationships require healthy boundaries.
WARNING: Expect some kickback – boundaries always create resistance in the one experiencing the effect of a boundary. You may be accused of being uncaring, unchristian, unloving.
By all means, check your motives and be sure that you are not operating on anger or frustration, but unless you establish a boundary, you will continue to be used and begin to feel resentful. This will damage the relationship you have with the other person.
True caring does what is best for the other person. And sometimes tough love is best.
Have you experienced “help resistors”? How do you deal with these situations?