Most of us have an innate desire to serve those around us. That’s a really cool part about humans — for the most part, we want to make a positive difference for people. The trouble starts when we don’t have service distinguished from everything else. Because we don’t have service distinct from the other stuff we do, it tends to get collapsed with a variety of other things, and then rather than leaving someone in the impact of being served and supported, they’re left in something else.
Here’s a bunch of things we confuse and collapse with serving someone: giving advice, convincing, selling, debating, spamming, manipulating, asking them questions from our own agenda, telling (as in telling them what to do, say, or think), giving them answers, teaching, and SO… MUCH… MORE!
It’s not even that any of these things is exclusive of truly serving someone. It’s that serving someone becomes secondary to our own agenda, rather than being the primary function of what we’re providing. As a result, we end up applying our own agenda, rather than getting over there with the other person and finding out what would really support them. And since we’re coming from a pre-determined idea of what we think or know we should do, we tend to miss the mark. Rather than being left feeling served, the person on the other end of the conversation is left feeling unheard, ungotten, fixed, untrusted, etc.
At best, hopefully what the person needs is what we’re providing, and when it lines up, great! The rest of the time… well, you’ve been in those conversations.
The principles of service formulate the foundation for ensuring that you are serving someone as a primary function, rather than … something else.
Those people spamming you with their webinar offers on LinkedIn are a great example of this in action. When you reflect their impact back to them, they’ll insist “I’m just trying to support and serve people”. Which on some level is true, but serving you is secondary to their agenda to make as many invitations as possible, so as to ensure they get a sufficient number of people in their webinar, so as to ensure they get hired. And none of this is transparent.
In these instances, serving you cannot be their primary intention nor impact, because they haven’t even checked in with you to see what would serve you. The only time they’re really going to be serving you is when the stars align, and you just happened to be looking for the kind of webinar they were providing. If you’re a believer in astrology, right on! Otherwise… well, you get the idea.
The principles of service and support
- If you’re not clear if someone wants your support, asking them directly (and honouring their answer) is serving them.
- Asking someone to see what would support them (and then honouring their answer) is serving them.
- Supporting someone to overcome their fear is serving them, provided they are a YES to your support. (If you are not sure if they are a YES, see #1.)
- Being transparent about your intentions allows someone to tell you if they are a YES or NO to what you are providing. This is serving them.
- You don’t have to constantly know that what you are providing is of service. When you realize you are no longer sure if you are serving someone, checking back in with them is providing service.
- Asking for more clarity from someone, is serving them. (Are they a YES? Are they a NO? Does their “Yah…. but”, mean that they want to end the conversation, or would they like support to overcome the objection?)
- Asking someone a question that may drive up discomfort does not innately cause them a disservice — in fact, sometimes that is what is required to serve them.
- Your own level of comfort is not a reliable indicator for whether or not you are serving someone. (See #1, #2 and #7.)
- Being willing to listen to and receive the impact (good or bad) your attempts to serve someone have had, serves them. Justifying or making excuses for why you did what you did, does not.
- It’s okay to cause someone a disservice in your attempts to serve them — we are all practising something new. Just be willing to hear your impact and clean up your mess.
- Using discomfort to manipulate someone is not service. To avoid manipulating someone, practise #4.
- It is okay to have serving someone overlap with you making a living. In fact, the highest form of service often comes when it is mutually beneficial. You cause a disservice when you are not transparent about both sides of this equation.
- If people want to engage your services, supporting them to make that happen, even and especially when they are afraid, is serving them. (And when unsure, see #1, #2 and #3)
- Supporting people to get to a clear, empowered YES or NO, with regards to what is in front of them, is serving them. Open loops (“Let me think about it…”) drain our time and energy.
- Getting clear on your own agenda, and being transparent about it, allows you to better serve someone.
- Pretending or insisting you do not have an agenda of your own gets in the way of your ability to serve someone.
- Giving unsolicited advice, feedback, teachings, or suggestions, no matter how well-intentioned, is not serving them (as a primary function). When you have something for someone, practice #1 and #2.
- Being attached to someone wanting or accepting what you have for them causes disservice. If you are attached, practice #4, and go back to #1 and #2.