Helping Others By Getting Out of the Way

It seems to be a human fault. Telling others how to fix their problems.

I often have counseled husbands–just listen to your wife’s complaints. Don’t start offering suggestions about how to fix things. They just want someone to listen to them. As in really listen. If they want to fix the situation, they will try. Mostly, I think they don’t really want to fix it. Just talk about it.

Same way with when we try to help others through our missions. We try to tell people what to do to fix their problems as we have defined their problems.

Ernesto Sirolli discussed this situation in his TED Talk. When most well-intentioned aid workers hear of a problem they think they can fix, they go to work. This, Sirolli suggests, is naïve. In this funny and impassioned talk, he proposes that the first step is to listen to the people you’re trying to help, and tap into their own entrepreneurial spirit.

Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, talked about his own epiphany–and that of his team–regarding this same issue. In his talk last week, he discussed how the church used to send checks to organizations. Then they started checking up on the organizations. Visiting locations.

Eventually they discovered that partnering with a local church, someone who knew the needs of the local people and could relate to the local people, was much more effective.

Once again, I think what works personally, works corporately. Listen first. Then act appropriately.

I have trouble sometimes with the listening part. How about you?

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