David Strittmatter

Want to really support your loved ones? Just do it

Supporting another’s success won’t dampen yours.


  • Being kind to others makes us significantly and sustainably happier
  • Only a few people make use of the help you offered to them
  • People don’t make use of help not because they don’t want or need it but because they either simply forget to ask or do not dare to accept it

Practical advice:

  • Offer your help but focus on listening and don’t give unsolicited advice
  • Understand in which areas the person might need help (pain points)
  • Take action and just do it

Dear friend,

Have you ever been confronted with the following situation?

Someone close to you (a friend, family member, etc.) complained about a problem s/he has. You – a helpful person – listened to the person empathically and instead of giving unsolicited advice (often misplaced), you solely offered your help. The other person, though, never made use of it and the problem still persisted.

I’ve encountered this situation plenty of times. I love helping people and, thus, often offer my support. Yet, only a minority of people makes use of it. For instance, I often tell my friends to let me know when they want to get in touch with a person in my network who can help them. Only if I virtually forced them and initiated the connection by myself, they took advantage of it, and, most often, they experienced a real benefit from that.

In today’s blog article, I talk about why supporting each other is essential, why we need more proactivity in helping others, and how I think we can support our loved ones best.

Let’s support each other more

Why do we actually need to support each other (more)?

First, psychological research has shown that among the things that boost our happiness most, kindness is leading. No matter how rich or poor or our cultural and personal values, being kind to other people, e. g. doing someone a favor, makes us significantly happy. Moreover, we significantly underestimate how much happiness we gain from an act of kindness.

Second, we need each other to make our world better. The power of community – helping each other flexibly – is what differentiates humans from other animals. Yuval Noah Harari, an Israel historian well-known for his publications, states that our capability to work in large numbers and in a flexible way is what has allowed us to dominate our plant.

Nothing great has ever been achieved. So, if you aim high, have great ambitions, and want to leave a large footprint in our world, you need to acknowledge and harness the power of community.

You just have to do it

As written in the introduction, people often don’t take help even if explicitly offered. My past experience has shown that people don’t make use of it not because they don’t want or need it but because they either simply forget to ask or do not dare to accept it. I think that’s quite unfortunate.

How can we overcome this conflict?

I decided for myself that I don’t give unsolicited advice. Thus, helping with words is not an option.

Moreover, I don’t want to convince people to accept my help by simply arguing. Begging people to take YOUR help not only seems pretty odd **but also is still just a verbal commitment.

After I had contemplated this issue a few months ago, I tried something new: Instead of waiting until the person reaches out and takes your help – a solely reactive approach, I took action by myself and provided help proactively and just did it.

A few examples:

  • A friend of mine was searching for an internship. Instead of just offering help, I asked what kind of internship was interesting to him and proactively asked people in my network whether they needed a person like him. After I had received positive feedback, I approached my friend again and told him about it and told him to send me his CV. End of the story: He accepted the offer that was made to him and is now a happy intern.
  • Some days ago, my girlfriend had a stressful day and wasn’t able to eat enough veggies and fruits (that is important to her). Instead of just asking whether I could bring her something (she responded something like “no thank you, I’m okay”), I proactively made her a smoothing containing all the veggies and fruits she likes. Her smile and joy were more than worth this 5-minute effort.
  • At work, I want to support our Marketing Manager to make our brand more visible to millennials. I have already offered my help several times and reminded him to reach out to me. I know that he needs a new intern pretty soon and told him he just needs to send me the requirements this person has to fulfill for this position and I will use my network to support him. I still haven’t heard from him. In the meanwhile, though, I’m already proactively searching for potential candidates. Once I found some, I will present them to him even though he will most likely haven’t reached out to me and accepted my help yet.

How you can support your friends best

In my experience, there’s a fine line between helping someone proactively in his/her interest and forcing a certain outcome and making the person feel uncomfortable. In order to prevent unpleasant situations but still support my loved ones best, I apply the following approach when someone tells me about his/her problems:

First, I offer my help. I tell them “just let me know when you want me to help you with xyz”. If they respond with something like “Thank you, I might take you up on your offer”, that’s a clear signal that they want your help but won’t make use of it later.

Second, I focus on listening and don’t give unsolicited advice. I might have more experience in certain areas of life but unsolicited advice is often displaced and not taken seriously anyway.

Third, I try to understand in which areas the person might need help (pain points) and ask clarifying questions: “In which areas do you want to make your internship?”, “Why haven’t you yet found a suitable internship?”, “What’s bothering you the most right now?”

Fourth, be proactive, and just do it. Based on your assessment, you take proper action.

You want to put a smile on your girl/boyfriend’s face by preparing breakfast for her/him? Just do it! S/he might respond “I’m good”, “It’s fine”, or “I’m okay” after you had asked her/him whether you could do her/him this favor, however, the most probable reason why you got this response is that s/he doesn’t want to bother you with that.

The same applies to most other kinds of complaints: A friend…

  • cannot find a proper internship/job
  • moves to a new apartment
  • doesn’t know how to start working out or how to prepare healthy meals
  • is too stressed out from work and has no clue how to finish a project

Finally, always keep in mind that if you only offer your help, most likely your proposal will remain just words that will never be implemented into real support.

Share This Post

Recent Posts