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Listeners, Doers, and Distractors

Offering help can be tricky.  It can even backfire!  The same goes for asking for help.  If someone offers a kind of help that isn't welcome, the receiver may feel even more stressed.  If someone is asked for help they aren't comfortable giving, their friend's stress can become contagious, putting a strain on the relationship.

Here's a tip to help helpers and helpees feel better about... helping: When offering help, consider whether your friend would want you to be a Listener, Doer, or Distractor.

  • Listeners, well... listen.  They respond with validating statements ("That sounds terrible!").  They might offer advice, but they'll usually ask first ("I'll tell you what I'd do if you like, but I also want to hear more, if that's helpful.").
  • Doers help with practical tasks that become difficult when we feel overwhelmed ("Don't worry about making dinner tonight. I got you!").  They may even jump into problem-solving mode.  A lot of times, people just want someone to hear their feelings.  Other times, people just want their problem solved, and FAST!  In these cases, a Doer will do the trick.
  • Distractors give others a break from their problems ("It's been far too long since we've gone to the movies!).  They crack jokes, come up with fun projects or adventures, engage in light chit-chat, or invite friends to tag along on errands.

It may seem intimidating to pick a strategy and go for it.  But, you can eliminate the guesswork with this super-specialized bonus trick: ask.  It's as simple as, "Do you want me to listen, or maybe help you do something, or just distract you from the whole thing for a while?"

Of course, it works the other way around too.  If you ever need to ask for help, consider what kind of helper you need and who might be well suited to offer that kind of help.  Asking a friend to provide the kind of help they most enjoy giving can be a positive experience for both helper and helpee.  Or, you can tell your go-to supporters what kind of help you need at the moment.

Regardless of how you utilize the Listener-Doer-Distractor perspective, it can make helping a more pleasant experience for all involved. :)

(revised 01/01/2019)



 Patrick Turbiville, LCSW 

  Individual & Group Psychotherapist...


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