Why I Stopped Helping People And You Should Too

My mother always tells me never give advice or help anyone unless they ask you. When I was younger, I thought she was a cold and mean person, however as I get older, I realize she is right. My mother is one of the kindest people in my life.

Society always tells you that you need to help people ( I did too). They tell you that you should help people unconditionally and when people least expect it. None of those are wrong. A lot of the time random acts of kindness can change a person’s life. But they forgot to tell you the other half of the lesson and it can be very dangerous if you don’t know it.

If you are a regular reader of blog you might know that I am a big fan of the yin-yang concept.  Not everything is bad. Not everything is good. There are always some of the good that is in the bad, and some of bad  that is in the good. The same rule applies to this case.

It is not always a bad idea to help people just as, it is not always a good idea to help people. I am sure you have enough people telling you to be a good person and help people. We will look at the situations when we need to stop helping people.

1. Stop helping people who don’t deserve your help 

For me this is one of the hardest things to do. I always feel helping people is the right thing to do. It drives me crazy when I don’t.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

~ Audrey Hepburn [Tweet this]

It is so easy to grab a coffee a tea and pick my brain. I am a pretty friendly person who loves nurturing relationships. I enjoy sharing knowledge and believe people need to do it more often if they want to be successful. However everything has a limit.

A lot of times many start-up founders ask me for help. I know it is very hard to run a start-up, I work for one. Lately I stopped offering my knowledge for free. In the past, a lot of time people would invite me out for coffee to pick my brain. If you have a few million dollars in the bank from VC, picking my brain for free is not acceptable especially if you didn’t bother buying me my tea. They don’t understand that I have a mortgage to pay and a family to feed too. They don’t know that to have time meeting them for coffee, I will stay up until 4 am in the morning to work. To be honest if they don’t think my time worth any value, 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.

[Tweet this]

Now I just tell people my hourly rate. It is harsh but it makes my life easier and I am happier. People take me more seriously.  If someone cannot afford me, I usually give them another way to pay me.

Rule 1 : Never offer something for free.

Rule 2: Never forget rule 1

[Tweet this]

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 you who is serious.  People will always try to use you if you let them. You don’t have time to help everyone, only help people who deserve your help. Seth Godin wrote a great post about working for free, check it out he has some good tips. And if you still don’t know when you should and shouldn’t work for free, my favorite blogger Penelope Trunk wrote a post on this topic .  There is an amazing flow chart like those  ”He loves me, he loves me not” ones in Cosmopolitan but for freelancer to decide if you should work for free by Jessica Hische.  Do it, the worst case you will have a good laugh.


The first person you need to help is YOURSELF.

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

[Tweet this]

Sometimes you need to be selfish and put yourself before anyone else. Ignore what society is telling you to do. You can’t help anyone if you are starving and unhappy.

2. Stop helping people who don’t appreciate your help

My worst weakness is I like helping people, I have a heart. I help people when they ask. I also help people when they don’t ask for it. The first one is dangerous, if you don’t know why you should reread point 1. The second one is even more dangerous.

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

[Tweet this]

Lately a lot of my friends started blogging. I am a digital strategist by day, a blogger by night. This is what I do when I am not sleeping. I love giving people advice. Some people listen to me, some people don’t. There is a reason why I hate having female friends. Study shows that women are jealous of other women at work, and men don’t seem to care. Some people think I am jealous of their success and try to sabotage their lives. People surprise me with their imagination. I am a big fan of war strategy. If I want to ruin someone’s life, most likely I will let someone else to do the dirty work so nobody can trace it back to me. Only beginners would do it themselves. They don’t need me to make their lives more complicated.  Get real, I don’t have time to get jealous, I am too busy with my life already. I doubt that their blogger life is glamorous as they think, bloggers don’t make money.

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 learn. You shouldn’t offer advice when people are not ready for it or else one day they will come back and blame you when it doesn’t work out.

I stop 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.

Out of the 3, this one is the most dangerous 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.

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

Here is a true story about how my friends made my life difficult and ruined our relationships.

I am working directly with Thumble Beta testers. Apple loves making our lives easier, there is 100 person tester limit. If you subtract the number of invites I have to save for clients and media before launch, I don’t have a lot of  invitations for testers. I have to count every single invite that I send out and make sure everyone will give me useful feedback. A lot of my friends asked to test the app.  They all promised they will help me killing bugs. And a very small amount of them actually kept to their words.  They don’t know that instead of helping they are making life harder for the Thumble team. People don’t understand being a horrible tester affects the app in many ways. To them it is just an interesting app they want to to try. To me, it is my life. People have no idea how much more work they created for me and how much they hurt my feelings.

I don’t like to blame people for my mistakes because it is not healthy and I won’t learn that way. I put my friends before my job. My biggest mistake was trusting my friends. I forgot one of my favorite quotes, “I’d rather betray the world than let the world betray me.” I hurt myself by letting the wrong people start helping me. Even I know it was my fault, the relationships are already damaged.

I am not afraid  admitting my mistake. It is part of the startup life, fail and learn. But if you need do beta testing, try to avoid my mistake. Never listen to your friends. Pick the people who care about your products not what the products do for them. Everyone wants to play with a shiny new toy, but not everyone wants to make it better. Most of the time the right people are not your friends. It is very important to pick the right testers. Do it right even if it will hurt your friend’s feelings. Keep in mind, your friends will get over it and  negative reviews will never go away. They will be there and haunt you forever.

Offering help when you can’t do a good job will do more harm than good. It is like teaching someone how to paint when you are blind. People always forget this. Your kindness can hurt people too. Anything can be very dangerous if you don’t do it the right way. Don’t believe that help your friends,and  giving them advice they don’t want to hear? Then don’t forget to send them  this link  on Reddit just in case they want to add something to it.

One of the way to destroy a relationship is by offering help that you can’t deliver.

[Tweet this]

At the end of the day, everything can be good and bad. We all need to find the right balance.

Think before you offer to help someone.

It can cost you time, money and your relationship.

Stop helping people when it is not the right time to help.

Random acts of kindness can be dangerous too.

[Tweet this]

Photo credits: 1. Kana Yamashita 2. source 3-5 Mimi & Eunice Comics by Nina Paley

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Cam Mi Pham

CamMi Pham (@cammipham) is a digital marketer by day, blogger by night She is a vintage-a-holic, tea drinker and shoe lover.
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  • Chi

    That’s so brutally honest, but it’s 100% true. Someone had to say it, and I’m glad that you did.

    • http://www.cammipham.com CamMi Pham

      I am glad that you like it :)

  • http://dotimenow.blogspot.com DoTime21

    CamMi, yes it is a shame we must view helping others in this manner, but you are correct. I’ve helped others, and still do, but now they have to be in dire need.

    As you’ve mentioned, too many people out there who will abuse your own precious time. And as you know, time is one of our most valuable resources.

    • http://www.cammipham.com CamMi Pham

      agree we can earn everything else but we cannot get back time

  • http://www.lincolnparks.com Lincoln Parks

    In my Profession you must only work with those that truly want it and need it. There are some people that just want to complain, and I can’t work with those individuals. I get paid to help people succeed, and even still many don’t accept the help. So I agree to a point that you need to help where you are needed, and the person has humility to accept the help and move forward.

    • http://www.cammipham.com CamMi Pham

      Do you mind I ask what do you do?

  • http://richbornandbecame.wordpress.com Quaisha Thornton

    About 90% of the time I help people, I’m getting burned

    • http://www.cammipham.com CamMi Pham

      you are not alone, it happens to me all the time

  • http://gravatar.com/anthviv Anthony

    I thought about helping you by retweeting this, but then I had to rethink it after reading ;-)

    • http://www.cammipham.com CamMi Pham

      haha :) this is why I love you

  • http://shanta.ca TantienHime

    Thanks for supporting what I’ve been thinking lately. I’m slowly “divesting” myself of all the volunteer work or things that aren’t making me money because I’m being under-appreaciated in much of it and it takes up a lot of time and effort. Glad to know that I’m not the only one. Much appreciated.

    • http://www.cammipham.com CamMi Pham

      It is okay to give back to the community but you need to make everything every clear from beginning or else people will take advantage of you.

  • http://mervi.helmikuu.net Mervi (tasselflower)

    Makes sense. In times people don’t even want help. It’s also very difficult to know when to help and when not to help. I do also do stuff for free and yes, I’m totally broke. Silly me.

    • http://www.cammipham.com CamMi Pham

      When people don’t want any help, that is like the worst situation. You need to give them some time

  • Jeanette

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

    Thankyou thankyou thankyou…..

    This is why I keep going around in circles in life. Now I get it.

    You have changed my life.

    • http://www.cammipham.com CamMi Pham

      hugs :)