When seeking to help others, there are a few simple rules.
Going by them makes life easier.
Forgetting about them may be ok but at one’s own risk. In general, it guarantees frustration.
The most basic rule is to make sure that the other one wants help. That’s not an invitation to find a way to push the help onto the other. It’s more of a check-in to see if there is a common understanding.
The help suggested or offered needs to be the help asked for.
What happens often, is that people have a solution for a problem the other person doesn’t see as relevant or doesn’t want to address. Here it’s for example useful to distinguish between a complaint a request for help.
That doesn’t mean that complaints can’t be addressed. It means that the complaint may hide a real need for help. And if it does, it serves to figure it out together.
Now, missing this first step isn’t a big problem. Sometimes it will work out smoothly and both will be happy.
However, it may also lead to politeness, where the suggestions and ideas brought up to help are simply listened to without further engagement.
In that case, the way to see if the help is useful is to measure how it feels. Is the help being proposed landing? Does it feel like work to be listened to or heard? How much effort goes into suggesting and imagining solutions? How engaged does the other one seem?
Whenever it feels as if the work is mainly being done by the person wanting to help it’s a good moment to stop and reevaluate the situation.
It’s difficult to indicate numbers. With friends, the ratio could be close to 50:50. As a coach, however, I’ll seek to have a ratio of 20:80, where most of the work is done by the coachee. Reaching that fluidity means that the coachee is invested in learning. It doesn’t mean that the coach works less in total as there is work to be done to reach that fluidity. It does say however that the coachee needs to have as much space as possible to do the learning he wants to do with his coach.
And yes, we tend to forget. Helping often is too tempting.