Readiness to Help

Mahoney (1972) identified the signs of readiness to help as having: 

  • A desire to help
  • Faith in people
  • Capacity for honest thinking
  • Courage to trust
  • Sensitivity
  • Readiness to learn
  • Sense of humor
  • Flexibility
  • Tolerance for frustration
  • Acceptance of one's limitations

As members of families, we are called upon to help physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. As friends, we are often sought out for companionship, a sounding board for ideas, or advice.  As neighbors, we look out for one another's property when a neighbor is away.  We may pick up newspapers or mail, water plants, shovel snow, or provide transportation to the doctor's office.  And in times of a neighbor's personal loss, we are there with food and a listening ear.   Having a good relationship already with someone in need is an advantage that personal help-givers have over professionals.

As we move through the stages of life (birth, childhood, youth, adult, older adult, death) there are times when we are ultimately alone and so it behooves us to also help ourselves.  Maslow pointed to a hierarchy of needs we each must address: the need for shelter, safety, food and water, a sense of belonging, and a sense of achievement. As children our parents provided the first three but as adults we have to provide these for ourselves. 

Characteristics of Effective Helpers

Dyer and Vriend (1977:248) described some of the characteristics of effective helpers as follows: Like people and are good listeners, have lots of drive, are level-headed and have good common sense, talk about realities and possibilities, have had past success in helping others and others seek them out.  

Helping Principles for Nonprofessionals

Dyer and Vriend (1977:252-259) provided a checklist of helping principles such as committment to the process, maintaining confidentiality, focusing on the present and specifics, and using straight talk. They also emphasized having no vested interest in the outcome and recognizing that change requires time.