The Helping Agenda

To finish up this series on agendas in relationships, let’s take a look at a “helping” relationship. This could be a counselling relationship, but I’ll look at a simpler relationship, such as with a coach or a mentor.

When one person asks another for help or advice, the implication is that the person being asked is wiser, more knowledgeable, or somehow better equipped to come up with a solution than the asker…that they “know what’s best for you.”

This article is one in a series  on agendas
You can find the first article in the series here.

However, reality therapy views the “we know what’s best for you” mentality as part of the problem, not the solution! How does that outlook influence a helping relationship? Here are some agenda items adapted from work by Ellen Gélinas, senior faculty at the William Glasser Institute.

1. The key idea is that the person who is asking for help sets the agenda. They are actively looking for something, whether it’s personal growth, development, or change. The coach doesn’t enter the relationship with a preconceived agenda—only with the idea that they can help facilitate successful change.

2. A reality therapy-oriented coach would likely assist the person looking for help to self-evaluate.  What’s that person’s perception of their situation? What do they think of what they are currently doing? For example, “How effectively are you satisfying your basic needs? Is there a gap in meeting your needs for power, freedom, fun, or belonging? Is that motivating your wish for change?”

3. The coach can help by assisting the person to think through their situation and consider options. While the motivation, and ultimately the plan, are really up to the person asking for help, that person may not be clear on which direction they want to go, or what possibilities are open to them. A helper can sometimes uncover options that might never have come to light without a discussion of the situation.

4. As always, in a reality therapy-influenced relationship, no coercion is involved. The person asking for help sets the agenda, and any helping starts with the recognition that what a person wants is worth examining.

In this series on agendas, my goal has been to invite you to think about how we can develop and maintain all sorts of satisfying relationships. Different types of relationships lend themselves to different types of interactions; so it follows that there will be different agendas.

However, regardless of whether the relationships involve friends, teaching, working, or helping situations, there are some commonalities among those agendas.

One certainty is that relationships work best with no coercion. Regardless of how power is perceived in the relationship (equally for friends; perhaps not so equally in teaching, working, or helping relationships), each person takes responsibility for their own actions. Finally, maintaining a win-win approach—where both people benefit from the relationship—will contribute to a successful, satisfying relationship of any type.

What do you think of these agendas for various types of relationships? Do you think that being aware of how we relate to each other can help people get along?

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