Helping and Enabling – Is There a Difference?

Is there really a difference between helping and enabling?

Yes, there is according to the research. However, before we discuss the differences, let’s look at what “helping and enabling” are –

Helping is:

  • being there or doing something for someone that they CANNOT do for themselves, and

Enabling is:

  • doing something for somebody that they COULD or SHOULD be doing for themselves (the SHOULD is the hard one).


The Differences Between Helping and Enabling

In the book titled Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward, the authors John C. Norcross, James O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente paint a clear picture of the differences between helping and enabling. They indicate –

  • Enablers avoid discussions and confrontations while
    Helpers address specific disruptive and unproductive behaviours.
  • Enablers try to soften the consequences of events while
    Helpers ensure that each negative behaviour is followed by a consistent consequence.
  • Enablers make excuses, cover or even defence bad behaviours while
    Helpers guide us toward accepting responsibility for behaviours.
  • Enablers hardly ever suggest behaviour change and if they do, it’s indirect, while
    Helpers are clear and consistent in communicating behavioural expectations.


Want to Shift from Enabler to Helper?

If you have identified you are more of an enabler than a helper, there are a few things you can do to help make the shift from enabler to helper and support people who are making changes in their life. A few ideas include –

  • Keep communication clear and concise – repetitive, inconsistent comments usually backfire and can weaken the relationship with the person who is helping the person make a change.
  • Believe in the person who is making the change.
  • Know the differences between an enabler and a helper and practice and reinforce the traits of a helper.


Over to You…

I hope this has given you some insight in to differences between helping and enabling. Remember, behaviours and habits can be changed, we just need to develop awareness, commit to the change, take action and have the right support.


Please feel free to share any comments or questions below. If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards discovering your courage and leading a life you love, why not join our Toolkit?


Reference –

Prochaska, J., Norcross, J., & DiClemente, C. (2010). Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. New York, USA: Harper Collins Publishers.

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