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Appropriate and inappropriate help

This exercise will help you think about how to help other people. This is not always easy as not all "Help" is helpful. These situations will help you think about how to respond to some typical helping situations. The responses I have given are not the only ones possible. There is not necessarily one right answer. The person who decides whether an approach is helpful is the person being helped. You will find it helpful to consider your responses to these situations if you were that person. You can learn a lot by discussing your responses with your colleagues.

Think about the six situations described below and decide which choices appeal to you the most and why. You may find it helpful to record the results and discuss them with colleagues before clicking the "comments" link.

Situation one

Your partner's boss has shouted at your partner and she/he has had a rotten day at work.


a) Listen, especially for feelings, and then show her/him a way to solve the problem

b) Just listen for as long as it takes

c) Advise her/him how to solve the problem

Situation two

A resident of your house is trying to assemble some pack flat furniture and is having trouble.


a) Put it together for him or her

b) Ask the person if he/she needs any help

c) Stay there and be encouraging, offer help if asked

Situation three

You visit someone who complains that your organisation is treating her unfairly.


a) Say she should write to the Manager involved as that person can solve the problem

b) Listen to her complaint and say you understand how she feels.

c) Listen to her complaint, show you understand and take it up with the manager yourself.

Situation four

An elderly person is attempting to cross a busy road while carrying a heavy and awkward parcel


a) Stop the traffic, take the parcel and walk him/her across the road

b) Ask the person if he or she is all right and offer help if asked for it

c) Ask the person if she or he would like you to stop the traffic and/or carry the parcel

d) Ask the person how they feel about having to cross a busy road with a heavy parcel

Situation five

Your child is very distressed because of persistent bullying at school


a) Listen with understanding and try to help your child solve the problem

b) Go and see the head teacher, explain what is happening and find out what the school is going to do stop the problem.

c) Talk to other parents to find out the extent of the bullying and plan how to deal with it together.

d) Find out what schools that have very little or no bullying do.

Situation six

You are teaching an evening class in your favourite hobby. One of your students is obviously having difficulties learning the subject.


a) Go over the ground again with him again

b) Encourage him by praising the things he does get right

c) Say you have noticed he is having some difficulties. Ask him for his ideas about what they are and how you could help.

Click Comments for a discussion of the forms of help that are possible. 


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Phone +44 (0)1707886553, or +44(0)7879861525 email or Skype nickheap

Using these materials
I am entirely happy for you to use or draw on any these materials in any way you think will be helpful. I am keen to have my work, and the work of the people I have learned from, used.  


The language on this site is correct UK English throughout. There are differences in spelling and meaning between UK and US English. The context should make the material understandable in the US.

Further Information

There are free articles, exercises, designs, book references and links to other sources about many aspects of personal, team, management and organisation development on this website. I will add other resources as I learn what you want.

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