Are you an Enabler or a Helper?

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

Scott’s Maxim: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions. But it doesn’t always taste good.”

Which would you prefer to have in your life?

A) Someone who glosses over your unproductive behaviors, makes excuses for your screw ups and helps you enter and maintain a comfortable, non-confrontational current reality.

B) Someone who helps you grow by encouraging good habits, models and expects personal accountability, and gives you direct and consistent feedback both when you are doing well and when you need to improve.

Of course I wrote those two descriptions with a definite bias. I want to be happy in the service of others and desire to help others discover that same joy. So give me a “B”!

Which personality type best reflects your mom? Your dad? Your BFF? Your boss? Your soul mate? If they are an “A” we’ll call them “Enablers”. They will do their level best to avoid confrontations and keep you right where you are. If they are a “B” they are “Helpers” and will endeavor to point you toward a productive and rewarding life.

What would the world be like if each of us took a genuine interest in one another and were direct and truthful about our expectations for our relationships? What if we sought out and provided honest feedback with the goal of becoming the best possible people we could be?

Now how about you? Which description best fits your interactions? Are you an “Enabler” or a “Helper”?

John C. Norcross, James O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente wrote a ground breaking book titled Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. It paints a clear picture of the difference.

  • Enablers avoid confrontations while
    Helpers address unproductive behaviors.
  • Enablers try to soften the blow with a, “that’s ok” attitude while
    Helpers are consistent with cause and effect: Bad behavior generates a consistent consequence.
  • Enablers make excuses for our bad behaviors while
    Helpers guide us toward accepting responsibility.
  • Enablers hardly ever suggest that we change and if they do, it’s indirect, while
    Helpers are clear and consistent in communicating the behavior they expect.

Want to be a helper? Have the courage to intervene. Shoot straight but don’t nag. Avoid attaching yourself to an outcome and be willing to risk losing the relationship for the sake of self actualizing change. And keep trying to help as long as your spirit allows. Apathy equals approval and feeds denial. Stay with it. And if you must disengage, be clear about what you are doing and why.

And what about your own circle of friends. It’s a fact of life that we are always in motion, either forward or backward. So it makes sense to align ourselves with individuals and activities that move us forward and help us grow into the best possible people we can become. Hang with helpers. They can become your most important BFFs. They will help you make your dreams come true.

And we owe it to our best friends to give them the gift of feedback to help them do exactly the same thing.

Feedback is always welcome to