How To Really Help Someone In Need

Jun 5, 2013, Written by Sue Miley

Are you in a position to help someone?  Most of us are in some capacity, be it coach, counselor, doctor, teacher, parent, pastor, mentor, friend, boss, or even a colleague.  We all have the chance to help others.  And we are all uniquely qualified because at some point, we have all needed help.

What Is Helpful?

The question I have pondered lately is what is helpful?

When the person who needs help isn’t me, it is always much clearer to see what they need.  Whether they just have a goal they want to reach or are sliding down the slippery slope of rock bottom, most people can look at the other person’s situation and reach out to them with an all-inclusive one size fits all answer to their problems.

As parents we tell our kids that they should be neat, study proactively, help others, get a good night sleep, avoid sweets and sodas, go to church on Sunday, and life is good.  Trust us, we know, we have been there.

The doctor spends 2 minutes prodding with doctor like tools and announces we would feel better immediately if we lost 20 pounds, gave up sodium, slept 8 hours, and were not stressed out all of the time.

And in business, the consultant assesses our business and hands us a report with their cookie cutter, cut and paste recommendations from the last ten reports they did, to fix your less than perfect business.  Then off they go to the next assessment.

As you feel the breeze of their wake as they blow out the door, you are left mouth open with the unuttered words “how do I get there”?

Of which many good intentioned advisors would reply, “the Nike way, of course.  Just Do It!

This is not helpful.

We need more.

We Need More Than Just The Right Answer

We need more than the right answer.  We need to know how to work the problem.  And we need someone to teach us.

But many times, way too many to count, there is a gap.

A gap between where the teacher starts and the student is.

A gap between what I need and what they give.

I don’t need someone to just tell me what the destination should be.  I don’t need someone to just provide the right answer.

If I am on a street corner waiting on the bus, but the bus goes to a street corner two blocks down, I miss the bus.  The bus may be heading in the right direction and will get to my desired destination, but guess what, I’m not on it.

Whose fault is that?

Mine I am sure.  But you said you wanted to help me.  Pointing out that I missed the bus doesn’t get me to my destination.

So what is the answer.

Well, I have thought about this a lot.

Meet Them Where They Are

We need to start where the person needing help is.   We need to go to them and truly understand where they are first, before we can become their personal guide to the perfect life.

In my graduate program for counseling, they called this concept “coming alongside”.  We need to come alongside of our client and guide them from their vantage point.

In our “fast food” immediate gratification society this is too slow.  We feel like we need to solve everyone’s problems now.  After all, we can see it so clearly in the first 5 minutes.  We know the answer.  If we just tell them at minute 6, the sky will open up, and angels voices singing Hallelujah will pierce the universe.  All will be right in their world, because of your wisdom!


If we don’t take the time to meet the person in need where they are, and understand this place and exactly where they want to go, we will not be able to effectively link where they are with the path they should take to reach their destination.

We Need To Understand Their Barriers

In order to help, we need to understand their barriers, real or imagined.

We need to equip them to overcome these barriers or they will retreat back to where they started or stay stuck right where they are.

Change takes work.  There isn’t usually instant success.  This in itself is a barrier.

As a coach and a counselor, I am hired to help people to achieve their goals.  Even in business, I have determined that the answer is the same.  I have not determined this as a coach or as a counselor.  I have determined this as a person who needs help achieving my own goals.

Come Alongside

I have determined that what is helpful to me is when someone comes alongside.

If you come alongside of me, then they can see how tall and how wide the barrier actually is.

If you come alongside of me, they can see what tools I already have and what I may need to achieve my goal.

If you come alongside of me, I feel like I have a partner, someone on my side, to help me along the journey.

If you come alongside of me, you will better understand the speed and the strength that I have for the journey ahead.

If you come alongside of me, you would be a big help!

Reader Interactions


  1. Marc Zazeela says

    Great writing. Help is only effective when it is applied in the correct way. Pointing out a mistake is all too obvious. I don’t need you to tell me how to fix it. I need you to show me how and to accompany me along the way.

    Sometimes helping someone takes more than a few minutes. If you are not willing to invest the time, why even bother. No shortcuts.

  2. Bill Slyker says

    Real coach is one that helps you see and feel who you are. The answers you are looking for are already in your heart and soul. Life is so easy if you go into the child that is inside of you. Allow your heart to guide you and know that what you give out is coming from god that is in side of you. Have a great day.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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