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The Need to Help


Explanations > Needs > Help

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




When we see somebody who is in need, we feel a discomfort about the situation and want to help them.

In practice we may override this need and walk on by, though in doing so we may well feel guilty about not helping. When we do help, we feel good about doing so.


A woman sees a blind man standing at the side of the road. She goes and helps him to cross to the other side.

A couple of people who live near one another and regularly help out, lending an extra hand or particular expertize.

A retired person finds great personal fulfilment helping out at a local homeless shelter.

Related to




This need is driven in part by the need to nurture, although this is more closely related to child-rearing and comforting. The classic Christian tale of the Good Samaritan is just one indicator of the social values associated with helping people. Good people help, it says. And everyone wants to be considered good.

In the Bystander Effect, people do not help others, largely because they are unsure about what to do and hence follow others in their non-involvement. If one person goes to help somebody who has fallen over, suddenly others are typically galvanized into supporting action.

Helping others makes us look good in the eyes of observers, gaining their esteem and social status. This gives extra motivation to be helpful. Overall, when people help one another, a wider trust is built and society becomes more stable and pleasant.

When we help another person, we create an obligation for them to help us in return, maybe immediately and maybe some time in the future. Helping hence not only feels good but it also makes friends and gets help when you need it later.

So what?

When you see somebody who needs assistance, do not be shy. Just go and give them a helping hand. If you are not sure if they really want help, just ask 'Can I help with that?'. There is a good chance they will be grateful.

If you need help, ask. Be specific, asking a particular person for defined action. This makes their choice to help easier. Afterwards, do show appropriate gratitude.

See also

The Need for Help, Nurture, Values, Vulnerability

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