My mother taught me never to give unsolicited advice, nor try to help anyone unless they ask you for it. I always thought that maybe she was just cold. As I get older, I have started to realize that she was right. My mother is one of the kindest people in my life.

Society always emphasizes on the need to help people. I do it too.

They tell you that you should help people unconditionally and when they least expect it. None of that is, of course, wrong. Random acts of kindness can change a person’s life in many instances. However, there is a flip side to every coin. And it is essential not to mask the other half of the impact of any such gesture.

Not everything is bad. Same as, not everything is good. There is the good in bad. And there is the bad in good. It’s not necessarily the worst idea to help people. But it’s also neither a great one. And here are the reasons why I personally stopped helping people and recommend that you should too:

1. Stop Helping People Who Don’t Deserve Your Help

It’s not always an easy thing to do. We were taught helping people is the right thing to do. You need to unlearn this popular belief.

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” ~ Sam Levenson

Start-up founders often ask to pick my brain. I realize how difficult it is to run a start-up, I run one myself. However, I have stopped offering my knowledge for free.

In the past, quite a lot of times people would invite me out for coffee just to “pick my brain.” If you have a few million dollars in the bank from VCs, rummaging through my brain for free is not acceptable, especially if you didn’t even bother paying for my tea.

They don’t understand that I have a family to feed, mortgages to pay, deadlines to meet. They don’t realize that in order to make time for coffee, I would have to compensate for that lost time and stay up until 2 in the morning just to work.

If they don’t think my time is worth any value, then I don’t have time for them!

If people don’t care about you, you shouldn’t help them. They don’t deserve your help.

Now I simply tell people my hourly rate and take out my Square. Yes, it’s harsh, but it makes my life easier and I am happier for it. People take me more seriously. If someone cannot afford my advice, I usually give them another way to compensate for it.

Rule 1: Never offer anything for free.

Rule 2: Never forget Rule 1.

Next time if someone asks you to speak at their conference for free, don’t agree before you negotiate for the best deal. If they cannot afford you, ask for a free booth, time to promote your business or maybe free tickets to the conference. It will show whether they are serious about having you be present at their conference.

People will always try to exploit you if you allow them to. You don’t have the time to help everyone, only help people who deserve your help.

Remember, the first person you need to help is YOURSELF.

If helping people makes you unhappy, don’t do it. Simple.

Sometimes you have to be selfish and put yourself before anyone else. Ignore what society is urging you to do.

2.  Stop Helping People Who Don’t Appreciate Your Help

My biggest weakness is that I like to help people.

I help people, regardless of the fact that they asked for it or not. But you never know when that sort of philosophy could hurt you.

A former client of mine wasn’t doing well. My team spent a few days analyzing all the data and trends to figure out what the problems were. That wasn’t part of our retainer and I didn’t bill them. We did it because we cared about the client’s success. My team found some serious problems with the client’s business model and strategy. We showed the client our findings, and they fired us on the spot.

We did something out of compassion for our client. We told the client what they didn’t want to hear. We lost an account because we tried to help. And in the end, we made someone hate us for giving our professional opinion.

The easiest way to turn your friend into an enemy is offering them advice they don’t want to hear.

When I offer someone my help, I actually want to help. But a lot of the time, people are not ready to accept my help. It is normal. Everything takes time to change and most people don’t want it.

You shouldn’t offer advice when people are not prepared to entertain it, or they could one day come back and blame you when it doesn’t work out for them.

I stopped helping people who don’t want my help. Less drama, more time for myself.


3. Stop Helping People If You Can’t Put 100% Into It

This is the most critical one. Offering someone help when you are not ready to help is a big no-no. I have done this so many times, and until today I still regret doing it.

A few years ago, my parents were out of the country and asked me to look after their house. I don’t know how to water the plants at all. Some of them I poured too much water and some I gave very little. A month later when my parents came back, all the plants had died. If I didn’t offer to help, someone who knows how to take care of plants would have done it, and my father’s precious plants would be alive today. They never let me touch a plant again.

Helping people when you don’t have the skills or time will do more harm than good.

Offering help when you can’t do a good job will do more harm than good. It’s like being blind and teaching someone else how to paint. You make people miss the opportunities to find better help. Your kindness can hurt people too, in some instances. One of the easiest ways to destroy a relationship is by offering help that you can’t deliver.

At the end of the day, everything can be good or bad. We all need to strive to find the right balance between the two.

Always think it through carefully, before you offer to help someone else. If you don’t, it has the potential to cost you your time, your money and the relationships you hold dear to yourself (personal or professional).

A random act of kindness can change someone’s life, but it can also destroy one too.

Photo credits: Yin Yang ,Mimi & Eunice Comics by Nina Paley

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About Cam Mi Pham

Cammi Pham (@cammipham) is a digital marketer by day at ThinkRenegade, blogger by night, unlearner 24/7.  Cammi is a Medium Top Contributor, Quora Top Writer and TEDx Speaker. Her work has reached millions of people and has been translated into many different languages. Cammi has been featured in the BBC, Business Insider, Adweek, Yahoo, Lifehacker and more. Cammi lives by her personal motto, “Learn, Unlearn, Relearn.”