When You Can’t Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Help Themselves: 3 Tips

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you really want to help someone? However… the person that you may want to help is resistant and doesn’t want to be helped?

It’s a hard pill to swallow but the reality is this: you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. As hard as you may want them – and their life – to be better, healthier, more joyful, the change (and desire for change) can only come from them.

So… if you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves, is there anything at all that you can do? Yes! You can plant a few seeds with the hopes that they decide to water them. Let’s dive into the 5 tips that can help you deal with someone who is resisting change.

Understanding the Dilemma: When You Can’t Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Help Themselves

Most of us want the best to the people that are closest to us. We may want to help, support, or offer some advice. However, the complexity presents itself when people close to us are indifferent or resistant to change.

This resistance may lead to misunderstandings, and, at times, deep-seated frustrations. This delicate situation often leaves us grappling with a profound dilemma: what do you do when you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves?

At the heart of this challenge is a fundamental truth about human nature: real, lasting change springs from within. It cannot be externally imposed, no matter how pure our intentions or fervent our desires. Recognizing this doesn’t just protect our peace of mind; it respects the autonomy and personal journey of the individual we’re so eager to help.

Understanding this dilemma requires us to confront our limitations as supporters. It’s about acknowledging that our role isn’t to fix but to foster an environment where change is possible when—and only when—the person is ready.

This realization is both freeing and daunting. It shifts the focus from action to acceptance, from solving to supporting.

But here’s where the warmth of your approach makes all the difference. Approaching this situation as a good friend means listening more than speaking, offering guidance without expectation, and being a constant presence without overwhelming.

It’s about giving them the space to breathe, to reflect, and ultimately, to choose their path forward. Your support becomes not a beacon that blinds but a gentle light that guides.

Navigating this dilemma, therefore, is less about changing them and more about evolving ourselves. It’s about cultivating patience, understanding, and a deep-seated respect for the individual’s timeline. No matter how challenging it may be to de-attach ourselves (my fellow co-dependents and people pleasers know this!)

You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves

The Challenge of Helping Those Who Resist Change

Facing the challenge of helping those who resist change can be a deeply perplexing aspect of human relationships. It often puts us in a position where our instincts to assist clash with the reality that personal transformation is a deeply individual process.

This resistance isn’t just about refusing help; it’s rooted in a complex mix of emotions, experiences, and perhaps fear of the unknown that change brings.

When we encounter resistance, it’s essential to step back and reassess our approach. It’s not about pushing harder but understanding more deeply. Why is there resistance? What fears might be underlying this reluctance?

Engaging in open, honest conversations can sometimes illuminate these hidden concerns, allowing us to offer support in a more meaningful way.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that our role is not to change other people’s mind, but to be there for them. This means respecting their autonomy and being ready to support them when they’re open to it.

It’s about being a steady presence, offering assistance without strings attached, and making it clear that you’re there for them, no matter what.

You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. What you can do, however, is be available and open to support them and also focus on leading by example.

This approach requires patience and a willingness to accept that change, if it comes, will do so on their timeline, not ours. It’s a delicate balance between offering support and respecting the individual’s journey (as hard as it may be to not be attached to the desired outcome).

So… what to do When You want to help Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Help Themselves?

Tip 1: Lead by Example

The method of leading by example is rooted in the simple yet powerful idea that actions speak louder than words. When you embody the changes you hope to see in others, you provide a living, breathing example of what’s possible, offering inspiration without the need for persuasion.

Leading by example isn’t about perfection or setting unrealistic standards. It’s about demonstrating the qualities you value: resilience in the face of challenges, commitment to personal goals, or kindness and understanding toward oneself and others.

This does not only show that change is achievable; it makes the concept of change tangible and relatable. You can’t help someone change if you’re not living that change yourself.

This method also respects the autonomy and intelligence of the person you’re trying to help. It shifts the dynamic from one of instruction—where one person teaches and the other learns—to one of shared experience.

You’re not telling them what to do; you’re showing them what can be done and how they might adapt these actions to their own lives.

Moreover, leading by example fosters a supportive environment naturally conducive to growth. It creates a space where the person feels safe to explore their own potential for change, inspired by the example you’ve set.

They’re more likely to open up, ask questions, and seek advice when they see the principles they’re being encouraged to adopt are not only preached but practiced.

In essence, leading by example is about integrity and authenticity. It’s a commitment to live by the same principles you advocate for, providing a clear and consistent model for others.

This approach doesn’t guarantee immediate change, but it plants the seeds for growth in a respectful and impactful way. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves – but you can show them what the other side of this change may look like, by embodying it yourself.

5 Tips When You Can't Help Someone Who Doesn't Want to Help Themselves

my Own Personal Example

I want to illustrate this with a personal example. A great colleague of mine had completely stopped drinking alcohol. It started off as a 1 year experiment, but after seeing the positive benefits in his life he decided to stick with being sober.

He was never the one who preached this no-alcohol commitment to others. He wasn’t posting all over social media how good it is that he stopped drinking or trying to convince others to do the same. He simply… lived his life, alcohol free, and embodied that change.

He knew that you can’t help someone by non-stop reaching. You just had to live your life being that change.

He got really fit, started running half-and-full marathons, picked up new hobbies, was less stressed, had better mood, and overall experienced much more joy and pleasure. And he was radiating this change.

And guess what? This inspired me to do the same. I decided to also stop drinking alcohol, for at least 3 months, and see how I feel. The reason I felt so inspired by him and his decision wasn’t because he was preaching it and trying to convince me.

It’s not because he kept saying ‘you should really stop drinking. It’s bad for you and you can be so much happier without it.

I simply observed him, asked him lots of questions (I got curious…), and saw the change in him. Then… I wanted to follow in his footsteps and try this for myself.

TIp 2: Active Listening

Active listening is more than just hearing the words spoken by someone; it’s about truly understanding the message behind those words, the emotions entangled in them, and the unspoken thoughts that linger between the lines.

Active listening involves giving your full attention, showing empathy, and providing feedback that conveys to the speaker that they are truly heard and valued.

Active listening is vital because it creates a foundation of trust and respect. When individuals feel genuinely listened to, they are more likely to open up, share their deeper concerns, and consider the perspectives being offered to them.

It tells them that their feelings and experiences are valid and important, paving the way for a more open and meaningful dialogue about change.

This approach also aids in breaking down defenses. Often, resistance to help or change stems from a place of vulnerability or misunderstanding. By listening actively, you’re able to identify the root causes of these defenses and address them in a compassionate and understanding manner.

It allows for a more nuanced understanding of the individual’s perspective, helping to tailor your support in a way that resonates with their unique experience.

In my own personal experience, nothing bothers me more than people hearing what they want to hear instead of hearing what I am communicating. I’m sure you can relate, too?

When we feel heard, we begin to self-reflect and hear ourselves more clearly. This self-reflection is a critical step in the process of personal growth, as it helps us recognize our own needs, desires, and the changes we may need to embrace.

Don’t push your agenda when you feel you can’t help someone. Do your best to listen to them actively and hear what they say — not what you want to hear!

someone who doesn't want to help themselves

Tip 3: The Importance of Letting Go

Embracing the importance of letting go is a crucial, albeit challenging, part of supporting someone we care about. It’s a natural instinct to want the best for those we love and to see them make choices that we believe will enrich their lives.

However, a fundamental truth we must accept is that we cannot control the actions, decisions, or journey of another person, no matter how much we wish we could (I’ve gone through so much suffering learning this lesson myself…)

Letting go does not mean giving up on someone or withdrawing our love and support. It means recognizing and respecting the boundaries of individual autonomy. It’s about understanding that each person’s path to growth and self-improvement is uniquely their own and that they must make the choice to walk it themselves.

This realization can be liberating, not just for them but for us as well. It allows us to offer our support without attachment to the outcome, free from the frustration that can arise from unmet expectations.

Moreover, letting go teaches us to detach our self-worth and happiness from the actions of others. It’s a profound lesson in self-care, reminding us that our peace of mind and emotional well-being should not be contingent on the choices others make.

I learned this the hard way. I was so invested (and in a way… obsessed) with another individuals health and well-being. I had attached my own happiness and peace of mind to the actions that they took, and it resulted in lots of suffering and unhappiness.

As much as I wanted them to make different (and healthier) choices, I kept getting disappointed. I realized that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. They didn’t care about their own well-being and health as I cared about theirs.

I needed to let go and detach myself. I needed to focus on what I do and my actions — the 2 things I can control.

In practice, letting go involves a shift in perspective. It’s focusing on being present and offering unconditional support, all while understanding that we can’t steer the ship of someone else’s life. It’s acknowledging that the most powerful help we can offer is to be a consistent source of love and support, without trying to impose our will.

Ultimately, letting go is an act of faith and love. It’s believing in the capacity of others to find their way and make decisions that are right for them, even if it means taking paths we wouldn’t choose.

you can't help someone

Closing Thoughts

You may have encountered a situation where you can’t help someone but you really, really want to. After lots of resistance and push-and-pull, you realize that the other individual is someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.

If that is the case, you shouldn’t get worried or stressed that you can’t help someone you care about. You should focus on embodying the change you’d like to see them take part in, listen actively to what they share with you, and accept that their life is their own.

Remember: you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. If the change was to come (and if it were to last!) the desire to change needs to come from the individual themselves.

Common FAQ’S

What can I do if I can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves?

As hard as it sounds, you should focus on what you can control – and that is your own actions and behaviors and not those of other people. We may want to help others, but they might resist it. Therefore, instead of telling them or advising them on changing, try to embody that change yourself. (For e.g. instead of telling your partner they should exercise to be healthier, become more active yourself). Lead by example and remember that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.

What are the signs that someone doesn’t want help?

You may want to help someone, however, they might not want this help themselves. The signs that someone doesn’t want help including lack of engagement, defensive behavior, or outright refusal to discuss potential improvements.

What steps can I take if I feel overwhelmed by my desire to help someone?

If you are feeling overwhelmed when you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, you should self-reflect and see if you may be seeking to control situations that are outside of your control. You may want to help your parent, partner, or child. However, even if it comes with good intentions, this attachment to others can cause pain and suffering. You should focus on self-reflective practices, mindfulness, and if the help relates to substances like alcohol, joining groups such as Al-Anon.

Final Note

Want to dive deeper into your inner world and explore the topics of psychology and spirituality? Consider checking out our Youtube Channel: Inner Researcher.

Want to share something with me? Leave a comment below!

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