How not to help people

January 14, 2014 by Joshua
in Awareness, Tips

A friend introduced me to someone he suggested I might be able to do something with. That friend has made phenomenal introductions for me before and has always given great advice, so I followed up.

I met with him. I enjoyed meeting him. Near the beginning of the conversation, though, he told me he enjoyed connecting people.

At the end of the conversation he told me he wanted to put me in touch with two other people. On the face of it, that sounds great, but it’s not. I mean, it might turn out that way, but so far I have two connections to people whom I don’t know why he connected us. Following up these connections is an obligation. Dropping them either requires tact, hence time and attention, or potentially hurts relationships.

The problem is that he said he liked connecting people. That frames his action as him connecting me for his benefit, not mine.

Imagine you walked into a store and a salesperson walked up to you, offered you a product, and said “Here’s what you’re looking for.” Even if it was what you were looking for, if they didn’t ask what you wanted, you’d become suspicious, probably concluding they wanted to sell it for their benefit, not yours.

Helping people begins with putting their needs before yours. If you don’t you’re probably using them to help yourself, probably to make yourself feel better, likely at their expense. You arouse suspicion in others, the opposite of your stated goals.

It’s funny case of lack of awareness. People who do it think they’re aware and helping.

It’s called meddling.

A more extreme case

That occurrence reminded me of a worse case.

A few years ago my sister told me some friends of hers suggested I meet someone. My sister presumed it was for potential business connections. Since my sister knows me well, I agreed to meet this person. It happened long enough ago I don’t remember the meeting beyond remembering that I saw no potential business whatsoever with this person. It was a total waste of time. And I remember telling my sister the meeting was so pointless whoever suggested the meeting, her friends, misunderstood me so much I didn’t see a point in seeing them again.

Fast forward to the other day. My sister said she saw those friends. It came out they thought I was gay and were trying to set me up with some guy but didn’t tell anyone their assumptions.

Granting them all the benefit of the doubt I can, they may have believed they were trying to help, but their twisted secretive ways combined with what looks like them doing it for themselves illustrates how counterproductive meddling is. They weren’t trying to help me. They were trying to have fun at the cost of my time and my sister’s reputation.

What a couple of meddlers. Sadly, they probably feel smug now.

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