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Helping Relationships

From the work of Gary Myrick

Research found that in counseling when certain helping characteristics were present, people tended to get better; when they are absent people tended to get worse. This was independent of the counselor's theory and technique.

Thus, even those who are not "professionals" but who can achieve these same characteristics in a helping relationship, can and do, help facilitate personal growth in others.

People are changed very little by advice, persuasion or threat.

We experience the most change when we are with a helping person who is positive, understanding, tolerant, easy to talk with, non-judgmental and who cares about us. [Stated another way: When we are with someone with whom we feel listened to, heard, understood, accepted, safe, comfortable and cared about.]

The relationship between the helper and the helpee can be a positive catalyst in its own right. The real key to the helping process is the quality of the relationship.

Here are the five characteristics:

1. Listening attentively

2. Understanding the other person's point of view

3. Accepting the person non-judgmentally

4. Caring enough to be committed and involved (but not overly involved)

5. Being genuine.

1. Listening: Listening should not mean simply waiting for your turn to talk. Do not jump in to direct the conversation or change the focus from what the person is saying. Try to figure out what the message is, what the person is really saying and what feelings they are experiencing right now. Avoid by all means labeling or judging.

2. Understanding: This includes recognizing or being able to describe the thoughts and feelings of others.

3. Accepting: The person must feel free from the threat of rejection. The fear of rejection and judgment narrows and restricts behavior. The more we are accepted the more likely we are to self-disclose and take risks in the exploration process. The more secure we are the more accepting we can be, since our own self-concepts are less likely to be threatened by anything we hear. (sph adaptation)

Accepting them does not mean we condone or agree with them. But we do accept and acknowledge their feelings.

4. Being Genuine: Feeling one thing and communicating the opposite is not being genuine, therefore not facilitative. The more genuine you are the more the other person will trust you. Being non-genuine may turn them off from seeking help in general and from you in particular.


A friend is one who knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts who you have become, invites you to grow and supports you in your journey.