Excuse me. Aren’t YOU the one that asked ME for a favor?

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The word favor has multiple meanings. It means approval,support, or liking for someone or something. More commonly, it means an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual. It is this second definition that I think trips people up the most, at least in terms of etiquette. The very foundation of granting a favor implies that the bearer( favor giver) is doing something that the receiver( one who requested the favor) really needs and expects nothing in return. It is an act, in my mind, that has the potential to exhibit altruism in it’s truest form. This sounds fantastic, right? Nothing further is owed. The need is met. Everybody goes their separate ways, better than they were before. What is hoped for, however, is that while no objectively tangible exchange has to occur in the opposite direction, an expression of gratitude toward the the bearer would be most welcome, if not expected. That is just common, Emily Post type etiquette. What is NOT expected is complaints and criticisms about HOW the favor was executed, complete with a side of advice on how it could have been done better! Altruism aside, all humans like to know that they are appreciated. It is in our nature. STILL, lack of gratitude, in most cases, can be forgiven since most of us do not do favors just for thanks or praise. However, rudeness, corrections, and nagging tend to tip most of us over the edge no matter how good we feel about doing the favor in the first place.

I have to say that I am fortunate and that does not happen to me very often. However, when it does, I don’t always take it well. My feathers get ruffled and I find myself questioning why in the hell the person asked for help in the first place? Interestingly, it seems to happen with the favors that have required the most planning, effort, and time. How ironic? The good deeds that require the most time often get the most criticism. Is it because the increasing complexity of the favor is proportionate to the amount of potential complaints regarding mistakes involved in it’s completion? Well that is a terrible disincentive and a fine how do you do. Actually, I don’t that’s it. I think that the increasing complexity of the favor probably brings inherent increased pre-existing frustration on the part of the requestor. This makes sense. People aren’t inclined to ask for help unless they are unable to or too frustrated to complete a task themselves after trying a multitude of times. Therefore, the person granting the favor often becomes the target of all that misguided frustration. I am not implying that that is appropriate or okay. That behavior shouldn’t be condoned. However, I am not sure that it is completely avoidable either. It is just one of the risks of doing a favor. I don’t truly believe that people are walking around looking to trick someone into helping them just so they can lash out and make sure that they never help them again. That would be pointless.

There is still another potential scenario of inherent risk to doing favors. I like to call this one the unquenchable thirst. This refers to the recipient that cannot get enough of asking favors, the person that keeps asking for more and more, the one that is never satisfied. You bring them a casserole one time when they are going through a rough patch and suddenly you are supposed to cook for them every night. You know the situation. It’s insidious. It creeps up on you slowly and before you know it, you have no time for yourself anymore because you are busy running ragged for the other person. You start off feeling all warm, fuzzy and needed. Then, the feeling slowly modulates to trapped, tied down and resentful, as if you are on a runaway train and cannot get off. Yup, this is a tricky situation. The onus is completely on you to disentangle yourself from that one.

Sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it? I made it sound like all favors have the potential to backfire. This is an undeniable truth, but I don’t let that stop me. Are my outcome ratios all favorable? Nope. I have slowly and painfully learned that I need to be a little more selective in my process. I tread that fine line between good Samaritan and doormat every day. Sometimes I end up with tracks on my face. Sometimes I don’t. But, when the outcomes are good, they are worth every bit of effort it took to get them. Have a fantastic day everyone!

Dr. Katz

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