Want to Help Others? Take Your Time

September 26, 2016

Categories: Helping

What factors determine whether a person will help someone who is in need? What do you think? Maybe it’s due to whether a person has a personality type that prioritizes caring and empathy? Perhaps it has to do with how a person experienced love as a child? Maybe it depends on whether a person is religious or not?

What about whether a person is in a rush?

In a famous experiment, John Darley and Daniel Batson took Princeton seminary students and assigned them to one of two conditions. Half the participants were instructed to give a sermon on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and half the participants were instructed to give a talk about job opportunities for seminary students.

Participants were then instructed to walk across campus to the building where they would give their talk. On the way, they crossed the path of a man who was coughing, in pain, and in need of help. Would the participants who had been thinking about the Good Samaritan actually be a Good Samaritan in real life?

To a certain extent, the answer was yes. 53% of participants in the Good Samaritan condition stopped and helped the man, whereas 29% of the participants in the job condition stopped and helped.

However, even more important than the topic of their talk was whether participants were in a rush. Half the participants were told they needed to hurry to the other building to deliver the talk, whereas half the participants were told they could take their time. 63% of participants who had plenty of time stopped and helped the man, whereas only 10% of participants who were in a rush stopped and helped.

The take-home message is clear. If you want to be a person who offers compassion to others in your daily life, don’t be in a rush. Give yourself some margin in your life, which will allow you to notice others who are in need and help them.

Discussion: Do you live your life like you are always in a rush, or do try to take it slow? What is one step you could take in order to give yourself more margin in your life?


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