The helping process involves two participants: the one needing help (receiving) and the other who is helping (giving). There are two kinds of help, visible help, and invisible help. Visible help is when the one needing help appears to yield to their own wants and needs and has advanced to selecting a solution to meet their needs, and pursuing it. Visible help comprises a person who knows they have a problem, and then envisions a solution to that problem. This all sounds normal until a built-in limitation. If you know you have a problem with your blood pressure being high, and you pursue a vision of a solution, you play the doctor. The only acceptable help would be consistent with your vision. Wanting help, in this case, is different from the real help that is needed. What goes unseen is an alternative which offers real or better help than the expected solution. This blindspot of not entirely knowing one’s needs is often too vulnerable to put into the hands of another person, especially in today’s marketplace where finding information and getting free help is abundant. We are all inclined to fall into being experts determining our needs on our own. And yet our preconceived notions omit better help.
Invisible help isn’t a one way street, in fact, it’s cultivated by another person, the helper, making it safe to explore what isn’t recognized yet. The safety dynamic arises when the one needing help places great trust in the connection with the helper. But the helper is not being depended on to have all the answers. Invisible help is when both the helping person and the one needing help illuminate a real need to together and yield to it. I’d like to suggest an approach to inspire this yielding process. Before I do, you may be thinking that invisible help is tough empathy. They are not the same. Invisible help is a bilateral process of cultivation while tough empathy is unilateral. A lot of low value and unnecessary help is forced when tough empathy is the visible help the giver’s expertise or answers are motivating. But again, this is not invisible help.
The top 1% of entrepreneurs I’ve coached embrace invisible help while others don’t. They’re highly comfortable with their ignorance, full of curiosity, and willing to unlearn their skilled incompetencies. Their ability to depend on others for help and be helped is an unusual skill that brings them to the top of the food chain economically. They simply aren’t able to complete themselves and their theories alone. They instinctively invite shared intelligence. This is possible because they regulate their habitual ways of thinking before they limit their options.
Alternatively, people typically operate most of the time upon their conditioned thinking in making decisions and responding to situations as they come. These habitual thoughts are concepts, beliefs, and generalizations that act as filters through which reality is interpreted assigned meaning. They are cognitive reflexes when left on automatic mode, which lead to strategies and behaviors (actions) often give rise to negative consequences. Skilled incompetencies are habits that inadvertently create unintended consequences. Human beings will default to conditioned thinking during conversations where the things they say and want contradict the inner thoughts and feelings they have. When these are contradictory, what is said and done aren’t the same.
To illustrate this, just remember a time when a buyer of yours bottom lined you. They had a mental map at play that “It works this way or that way.” You were feeling pressure to follow their criterion. To avoid insulting them, you attempt to be nice, and lower your price. You figure you’ll let this one get through and hit them up later with an upsell or add-on. They’ve boxed you into their evaluation matrix of how to buy what you do. Now you have become commoditized, type-casted as giving in easily to please, and you’re referred to the next person the same way. Both you and the buyer have skilled incompetencies at play. It’s as if two video recorders are talking to each other. The end result is zero value creation for either of you. Instead, both are trapped by their certainties and assumptions as if one assumption fuels the other. The more you assume you won’t make the sale makes you an easy catch, you lose respect and give away power and control of the sales process. The buyer is blind-sided unable to see how they see, and defaulting to what they deem as right. What a sad ending.
What would you do to counter the previous scenario? Change the rules of the game. Re-engineer the pre-existing paradigm the buyer is operating from and bias the new one to your helping approach. And also let go of your fear. Instead pay primary attention to what is true for the buyer, and get inside his conversation with himself. You ask questions to help the person visualize what lies beyond the limits of their expected buying vision. “What if you also could…?” “What if you also had a way to…” You expand their evaluation matrix and crack the door to invisible help they didn’t know they needed until you asked them these questions. These capability questions inspire a picture of a different future with your solutions living in it. Before doing this, find out what the person was seeking to originally accomplish and how they see themselves using the solution they have in mind. Do not make the one needing help feel stupid or under attack for their righteous way of thinking. Just embrace it as a starting point.
Another way to cultivate invisible help is to share a powerful reference story. Stories are game-changers because, like the story arc of a well-made film, there’s a setting, a struggle, a breakthrough, and a resolve. Telling a story of someone who they can relate to like them, who started at point A and went to B, can help reshape a paradigm with hope. The Pros who make invisible help safe because the story will open up possibilities beyond what seems real. It generates believe-ability in another passage, one that if selected transcends the invisible help they didn’t know they wanted but needed.
Like magic, I’ve seen people yield to invisible help when they express their desired future. As they’re asked where they truly want to be, the subject matter is so different than their current reality that the challenges and opportunities involved in closing the gap leave room for invisible help. Aggressive goals unearth people’s incapacities. Often the truth-telling of where someone wants to be versus where they actually are can open them to the willingness to learn and grow, where invisible help is welcomed.
The helping process is a complicated system. Giving help also has its built-in complexity. Cultivating invisible help requires the helper to suspend having all the answers. Reshaping needs for help involves humble inquiry, by following curiosity instead of following expertise. It’s often the expertise that causes great business people to jump ahead too quickly and forget which phase to stay in. They advocate instead of inquire, playing an answer-full expert, not an honest helper. They advise too early during the sale, instead of selling their advice first by positioning invisible help.
The first phase is the diagnosis, and then afterward is the prescription. The diagnosis begins when the one wanting help has a pre-existing vision of a solution directing their decisions, actions, and communications. Step 1 is to expand the evaluation matrix by asking the capability questions that allow the one needing help to consider help beyond what they expected before. Start off by first asking how they see themselves getting help, and then add on your additional capabilities through which they picture life with your help. Step 2 is to have the one needing help compare their current way of doing things today to the way you’re helping them re-envision with your help. Exploring the impact of this contrast is where motivation is strongest to shift their loyalty to invisible help. By stating the capabilities you’ll add and comparing it to what they had been doing before, this gap will motivate a shift of mind.