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How to Make Yourself INSANELY Useful

How to Make Yourself INSANELY Useful
How to Make Yourself INSANELY Useful

All of us want to be useful to others in some way. We want to feel needed, competent — like we’re making a difference, in some small way.

Some people, though, are insanely useful. They are the go-to people whenever someone needs help. They’re the people that make us feel useful because we know them — when someone needs something done, we can say “Oh, I know just the person!”

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It’s not necessarily that they’re smarter, better connected, or more competent — what makes someone insanely useful is their attitude. The not only help, but they make the people they help feel better about themselves, not worse. Needing help makes us feel vulnerable and worthless — insanely useful people counteract that and leave us feeling enriched.

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Here are a few things you can do to make yourself insanely useful:

  1. Share what you know: Be open with people about your strengths and knowledge. Let people know that you have special skills and that you can help when they’re in a jam. Lots of people know how to do things, but don’t bother telling anyone else — which is about the same as not knowing it at all, since when their special skills are needed, nobody knows to ask them and whatever it is that needs doing doesn’t get done (or gets done badly).
  2. Be confident in yourself: Know that what you know is needed and valuable — and that nobody’s going to reject a helping hand in their time of need. When we lack confidence, we make excuses for not helping, because we’re afraid to put ourselves on the line. Insanely useful people don’t make excuses — they jump in and do things to the best of their ability.
  3. Solve the current problem: Help people with the immediate problem they’re facing, without questioning the judgment that got them into trouble and without worrying about the problems that lie down the road. In a moment of crisis, lend your efforts to resolving the crisis. Once the problem is solved, you can offer your advice for the future or your evaluation of the situation — in a way that makes people stronger, not weaker. Remember, neither you nor they can fix the problem they had last week, last month, or last year; the best you can do is offer some advice for avoiding those problems in the future.
  4. Give willingly — even when it’s your job: We always remember (and seek out) the people who went “the extra mile” in helping us. We also remember (and try to avoid) the people who helped us grudgingly, because they had to. Show through your actions that it’s your pleasure to help — even when (maybe especially when) you’re being paid for your time.
  5. Satisfy your own curiosity: Look on each opportunity to help out as a chance to learn something new, to expand your own knowledge and competency.
  6. Listen to others: People’s inability to do something often causes them real emotional pain; listen to them, both to provide a shoulder but also to let them let you know what they’ve tried and where they think they went wrong. This gives them an opportunity — and it shows that you value their efforts. Think of how demeaning it is when you call customer service with a complex computer problem and they tell you to check if the power’s on — it feels bad when the people helping us belittle the knowledge we do have and assume we’re too stupid to handle even the basics.
  7. Don’t take over: It can be tempting to push someone out of the way and just do it yourself. This almost inevitably makes people feel bad. Whenever possible, work with them and show that you value their expertise and perspective on the task at hand.
  8. Know when to stop: Likewise, once an immediate problem is solved, turn it back over to the person you’re helping. Chances are, they know what to do once they get past the tricky part — give them a chance to demonstrate their own ability and talent.
  9. Teach, don’t tell: As much as possible, explain what you’re doing and why. Leave the people you helped feeling a little bit better informed and more capable to handle the problem if it should arise again (or at least to identify it, if handling it is above their abilities). Don’t assume that because you’re the expert, you’re the only one who can understand what to do. (At the same time, be sensitive to things that really are beyond all but the experts — don’t make them feel dumb because they don’t understand a word you’re saying!)
  10. Be sensitive to people’s feelings and shortcomings: I’ve said this several different ways already, but it bears repeating — help people feel better about the situation, not worse. Know that when people need help, it strikes deep at their sense of individual pride and competence. Don’t put them down in any way, and don’t let them put themselves down.
  11. Ask for help: Give other people a chance to shine in their areas of expertise by asking for help when you need it. You don’t have to be good at everything to be insanely useful — build the sharing of assistance into your relationships with other people by letting them be useful when they can.
  12. Model best practices: Show through your actions what it means to be open and available to help others. Be open about how you do things so that others can learn by emulating you.
  13. Be reliable: Once you commit to helping someone out, follow through. Never let yourself feel that because you’re doing someone a favor, they have to accept it on your terms. This demonstrates that you have the power in the relationship and makes them feel even weaker and more vulnerable than they probably already do. It might get the job done in the end, but it won’t make you insanely useful.

Being useful, even insanely useful, doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be used. It means offering what you can, when you can, and doing so gladly. This applies whether you’re doing favors for friends, working with a team at work, writing instructions, or anything else — set limits, but within those limits, be wholly available.

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Lots of people are useful — they do the things they need to do, solve the problems they need to solve, and keep things chugging along. People that are insanelyuseful are in high demand by the companies they work for, the organizations they take part in, the clients they serve, their friends and family, and society in general because they not only solve problems and make things work but they add value to every relationship they take part in.

Who do you know that’s insanely useful? What have you learned from them in your own life? Let us know!

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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