Up until very recently, I was a strong believer in the old “when you help someone it’s always nice” theory.
Boy, was I an idiot.
No, this is not a martyr post there’s not a hint of sarcasm to be found anywhere in its four corners. I am being dead serious. Recent events have shown me that sometimes “helping” someone might very well hurt your relationship with them.
The truth is that I am a “fix it” gal. Looking for a job? I’ll reach out to every contact and blast over job listings. Have a problem with a lover? I will sit with you and analyze it to no end until you feel better. Want to learn to cook? Expect cookbooks and Martha DVD’s to arrive via Amazon in two weeks or less. I often offer to ”help” without being asked and never once did it occur to me that I might be making the other person uncomfortable. The reality is that some people don’t want to be helped, even if (you think) they need it.
It never occurred to me that my reaching out might make the other party feel inferior. Or angry. Or that my well-planned “casual mention” might send their mind running circles around everything they need to do in order to get what they want and all they wanted today was to think about it tomorrow, and well my bringing it up just screwed up their day.
It was because of this lack of understanding that I would sit there–flustered– when they didn’t respond with gratitude . I would sit and stew and think, “I was only trying to help, and that makes me a good person. You’re being a jerk, so there.”
They’d be thinking, “Great, now I have an argument to deal with on top of everything else.”
New Rule: Ask if there is anything I can do to help and leave it at that.