The Art of Being Helpful - Your way to EF land (Part I)

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Part I

I - Introduction

Helpful: willing to help other people making it easier to do a job, deal with a problem, etc.

Due to this simple yet elusive definition, I have been prompted to write down my own thoughts on helpfulness and the art of being helpful, and how it relates to getting exemplary feedback (EF) posts on Gamebanana. 

I get many inquiries and messages on Gamebanana asking me about EFs and how to get them, and I heard many members complain in forum threads about their inability to get EFs; so I decided to share my own considerations in the hope of shedding some light on this subject. 

This is not meant to be a tutorial or a wiki; rather it is my own personal view that I believe should prove useful to most members as well as offer a good read to many. 

The official GB wiki for EF can be found here and the moderators’ guideline for EFs is found here, while the constructive feedback wiki can be found here

II – The Art of Being Helpful 

Many members on GB concentrate their focus on EF and get frustrated when they don’t achieve exemplary feedback; they simply ignore the humble fact that the process works actually the other way around: focus on being helpful and EFs will follow naturally. 

Being helpful is a human character trait just like being optimistic or generous and is usually “hard-coded” into one person’s mind and character. If you are helpful in real life, then being so on GB, or any online community, will be second nature. But what if you’re not the helpful type of guy/girl? What if you feel uncomfortable offering help to other people? What if you get furious when people ask you for help? Is it a lost cause that is better left untouched? 

While I do admit that it is rather difficult to instigate and implement change in people, it is not impossible; all what is needed is a catalyst to accelerate the reaction (my chemistry background is kicking in…can’t help it). This catalyst on Gamebanana is nothing more than the EF that should incite and redirect members towards being more helpful. 

Allow me first to refresh your memories about the benefits of EF before moving on to the tactics and approaches used to get more exemplary posts. 

Aside from submerging your post in a pleasant green color (borders, tick mark and header) and making it more prominent (for members to distinguish it from other posts and for bragging rights…if you ever feel the need to), getting an EF will instantly award you +50 points. Those points are the currency of GB and can be used later to unlock new features on the site or trade with other members. Every EF post you get will add towards your total EF count; the more EFs you got, the more points you earn from posting on GB (as per the points chart

Now if you are the idealistic, purist type of person and these “mundane” rewards do not float your boat, you should be aware that your post is made exemplary and will serve as a model for other members to mimic. A currency reward can quickly become overshadowed by the fact that you are leaving your permanent print and legacy in GB and inspiring others to follow your lead, not to mention the warm, fuzzy feeling inside you knowing that you helped someone improve and have a better day; that is a reward that can’t be measured. 

Now that the benefits of being helpful are clear, we are ready to move on to see how one can become helpful and what exactly defines helpfulness. 

1 - Empathy and understanding

Not to be confused with sympathy and feeling sorry, empathy is one of the most prominent characteristics of being helpful. You need to genuinely care about the person you are trying to help or about the issue you are trying to help with. It is true that man has lost most of his primal instincts in favor of advanced intelligence and reasoning during the long process of evolution; however, make no mistake that most people can still sense a genuine person/interest from a fake one. There is nothing worse than faking help just to boost one’s ego and polish his social status. 

2- Selectivity

Do not attempt to help everyone, everywhere in everything; you will fall flat and you will prove to be quite unhelpful. Select areas/persons where you can really have an impact, and stick to subjects that you have a level of expertise in. While there is nothing to stop you from offering help in areas that you do not fully grasp, doing so might do more harm than good, both to your credibility and to the person you are trying to help. No matter how desperate the person is for help, he will most likely assess you by doing background checks to see how well you’ve handled similar situations for yourself and for other people; if you appear shaky, then that person will turn down your help. 

3 – Good and active listening

The old principle of “2 ears, 1 mouth” (no it’s not a video on YouTube) holds true here; you need to listen twice as much as you speak in order to be helpful. This is called reflective listening (a further specific strategy than the more general methods of active listening). It differs greatly from casual/passive listening by processing information seeking to understand a speaker's idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly. In simpler words, you need to genuinely empathize with the speaker’s point of view and view things from his/her perspective. By being non-judgmental and prejudice-free, you stand a better chance of actually understanding the underlying problem and consequently offer better help. 

4 – Personalized/targeted help

In an age where everything is mass-produced, the notions of “personalized” and “tailor-made” seem to belong to an era long gone. But this doesn’t mean that your act of help should play along and be generic and faceless; on the contrary, the more personalized your help is, the more genuine it is and the more appreciated it will be by the person you are trying to help. Each person is unique and will consequently have unique issues/problems, and that forces you to offer personalized help as “one solution fits all” plan won’t do well. Offering help to a teenager is not the same as offering help to an elderly person, just as help offered to a bus driver won’t be the same as one offered to a doctor. You need to “speak the language” of the person you are trying to help to have better chances of succeeding. 

5 – Politeness/friendliness/positive-attitude

This one does not actually require a lot of explanation as no one will accept help from a rude, aggressive, grumpy-face person (he probably won’t offer help in the first place but let’s pretend he does). While offering or trying to help, you need to be polite, courteous, friendly (a smile is your ultimate weapon) and show genuine interest in the topic/person you are helping. Also remember that there is a fine line between being helpful and being intrusive and annoying. The best example I can give is the annoying salesperson at the clothing store who keeps following you wherever you move, breathing down your neck (I’m sure that you have experienced this situation before as I see a smile on your face right now). The salesperson thinks that he is offering help by following you in case you need something, while in fact he is quite the opposite. Being helpful requires grace and tact, and the ability to pull strings without cutting them. 

Part II (continued - GB doesn't allow more than 20000 characters per article)


January 26, 2013


  • 8mo
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    OMG , to achieve "exemplary feedback" medal , u wrote an article :)

    But it's really long... can u make it short in just 5 line or less?? XD 
    Asalmo Alal Hosein
  • 4y
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    Well... Seems that I know NOTHING on how to help a person in this category :|

    I know that I must thank you, Will, for this article at the end. So we'll see at the end.
    I'm going to read part 2 now for the sake of humanity (or being more "human-like" if you prefer)...
    Gamer since 1995 avatar
    Gamer since 1995


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