Have you ever helped someone with the best intentions and have the situation turn out as a big disaster? Did your helpful acts have long lasting negative effects? Did your actions enable another person not to accept responsibility for their own actions?
Let me tell you another true story. When I was in grade school my dad bought a brand new Ford country squire station wagon. The body color of the car was white. The car included a red vinyl like interior including the dashboard, seats and interior door panels and had red carpets.
My dad always took very good care of his cars. Especially his new cars. Every week he would vacuum the interior, and wash and wax his car. I would always be outside watching him.
One Saturday, my dad, my brother and I went out to visit my aunt and uncle who ran a small beef and pork farm. After taking a look at the animals and spending some time playing with my cousins in the barns, I decided to show my cousins our new car.
At that point we decided to all help out my dad by washing and waxing our new car. We got a couple of buckets and rags and washed the exterior of the car. We then decided to wax the car. My uncle had several cans of car wax in the barn.
As my cousins applied a coat of wax to the exterior of the car, my brother had the idea to wax the interior of the car. I agreed with him that it would be a good idea to wax the interior of the car. It sounded like a good idea at that time. That’s right, we decided to wax the INTERIOR of the car. The vinyl seats, the side panels, the dashboard, radio, the steering wheel, the interior of the roof, the heating vents, all the nobs and levers, etc. Every square inch of the interior of the car. We used a whole can of car wax.
When my dad came outside and saw what my brother and I did, he went over the edge. When my dad asked whose idea it was to wax the inside of the car, my brother immediately said it was my idea. In spite of my protests, let me say that I received a number of hard smacks on my backside, which was something that commonly happened to children in those days who did something they were not supposed to do. My brother did not accept responsibility for his own actions. My dad enabled my brothers behavior.
My brother and I spent the next several hours with rags trying to remove the wax from the interior of the car. We never did get all the wax off. The whole time my dad owned the car, the interior smelled like car wax. We never needed an air freshener. The wax made the vinyl seats and everything else inside the car very slippery. For months, every time my mom got in the car she would slide off the front seat, hit her knees on the glove compartment and get very irritated. My brother and I would get yelled at again from my dad.
So how do you help someone facing a challenging situation starting with the best intentions, so that it does not become a big disaster, does not have long lasting negative effects, or allows someone to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions?
- Use the STAR technique to analyze and provide insights for the challenging situation. The STAR technique is a technique used during job interviews and is a behavioral-based technique used to gather information about a challenging situation a job interview candidate may have faced in the workplace. The STAR technique can and is used outside job interviews as a framework to analyze and overcome life challenges. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Have the person you are assisting describe the challenging Situation they are facing, list all Tasks they need to complete as a result of the challenging situation, define what Actions they need to take to complete their list of Tasks and what Results can they expect based on their desired Actions. I am going to modify the STAR technique slightly to make the Letter T stand for Truth instead of Tasks. So to use the STAR technique, you determine the Truth of the callenging situation. The determined Truth is based on facts of the challenging situation and your own personal beliefs surrounding those facts. The modified STAR technique is therefore, Situation, Truth, Action, Result.
- Assist the person to see and feel the consequences of using their own STAR. Overcoming a challenging life situation with the modified STAR technique requires having the person you are assisting take responsibility for their own actions. Taking responsibility means the person cannot blame others, cannot be a victim, cannot make excuses for not taking any actions, or take any actions based on negative emotions such as fear, guilt, anger, sadness, etc. Provide encouragement and support without judgement and help the person you are assisting understand the results and effects of taking responsibility for their own emotions and actions and the results and effects of taking such reasonability on other people in the own lives. Help them understand that taking responsibility will also avoid any long lasting negative effects from their actions.
- Set proper boundaries so you do not become a STAR enabler. An “enabler” is a person who allows another person to continue with self-destructive or negative patterns of behavior. Being an enabler delays or denies a person you are trying to help from making new and different decisions and taking different actions that allows them to make positive, productive changes in their own life. To avoid being an enabler it is important for you to set firm boundaries. If you do not set firm boundaries, the person you are trying to help will believe that their current set of behavior patterns and actions are acceptable and will always be tolerated by you. Make it clear that your boundaries will be strictly enforced and when your boundaries are crossed, such behaviors and actions will not be tolerated and there will be real and significant consequences for such behavior and related actions.
Using the modified STAR technique and setting proper boundaries allows you to assist others and make a positive impact in their lives without becoming an enabler.
Out There on the Edge of Everything®…
Stephen Lesavich, PhD
Copyright © 2021, by Stephen Lesavich, PhD. All rights reserved.
Certified solution-focused life coach and experienced business coach.
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Award-winning and best-selling Author, Entrepreneur, Visionary, CEO of 2 different companies, Attorney, Tech Expert, Certified Solution-Focused Life Coach, Experienced Business Coach.