Don’t get me wrong. I help more people than anyone I know. There is a reason a legitimate reason why I recommend to never help anyone. It becomes a big problem for me when people start to expect it. We all know what expectations do to you. The principle behind expectations is simple: When something doesn’t live up to someone’s expectations, they become depressed, frustrated or angry. When things exceed people’s expectations, they become delighted, happy or excited.
As we go through these steps, keep that principle in mind.
People will become dependent on you
This is the most obvious, but also the biggest and more common problem. When people do things and they work, they tend to rely on them working again. If someone asks you to drive them or drop them off somewhere, there’s no reason if they need the service again, they won’t ask.
Okay, so someone is in a jam and you want to help. Great. The only problem is that you’re now under that person’s utility belt as an “option” or a plan be. Since you’ve already helped them out once, they would expect it again if they ever needed it.Even if they feel embarrassed, they’d ask again.
Computers are the same. Your average tech-savy person probably gets asked all the time about computers or if they can help fix someone’s computer. If they do so once and turn it down the next time, most people will take it personally because their expectations weren’t met. They won’t necessarily be furious, but they’ll be disappointed.
Your free time will be interrupted by unpredictable variables
The more helpful you are to someone, the more likely they are to ask you for favors or ask for advice. Interruptions are my pet peeve because I try to be an extremely organized individual. I plan out my week, then each morning plan out my day. Imagine watching a movie and having to pause it every twenty minutes to answer a text message or Skype message. Not only will it be harder to follow what’s going on, but you also won’t be experience the movie to its full potential. You won’t be able to get submerged into the movie and really experience it.
The same goes for any work you’re trying to get done during the day. Interruptions often cause you to lose momentum and ultimately produces a watered down result. Imagine trying to write and someone messages you and asks you to drive them somewhere? Yeah, your train of thought just got interrupted and you’re out of your grove. It takes a while to focus things back on track mentally. Not knowing when you’re going to be interrupted is very annoying, but it will be more frequent when people know you can help them.
You are the designated help desk
When people know that you’re reliable, they start to rely on you. Unfortunately, the more extreme version of “relying” on someone is “depending” on someone. More often then not, people will start depending on you. When I got my first real job at 17, I was a gas station attendant. The gas station shortly became self service and I started handling other tasks in the store. I was basically the cashier after that.
I would take out the trash, clean the coffee pots and stock items in the store. One day I was taking out the garbage in the bathroom and I noticed the manager’s garbage can was full as well. His office was right across from the bathroom so I just reached over and took out the garbage bag. He thanked me with a smile and I kept it moving. At the time, I thought “what the Hell, I’m on my way out, I might as well anyway!”
He took it out himself in between, here and there. A week later I did the same thing because I was in a similar situation. The following week after, he asked me into his office the next day and told me “Amir, I think you missed my garbage yesterday” and I replied to him “I attend to the garbage in the store, but your personal garbage is not on my list. I’ll tend to it out of courtesy when I’m reasonably able to, but that’s why I haven’t got to it”.
Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled about that. He gave me an “okay……” with his eye brows raised. Shortly after that, he began adding his personal garbage can to the required garbage workload for all newer employees and unfortunately I created a monster.
Every time I repeat a favor more than once, I see that people become more comfortable asking for it and they do so more frequently. On top of that, they become less and less understanding if you refuse. That leads me to my next point.
People may resent you
I’ve actually lost friends because I helped them. At one point, a friend of mine got drunk when we went out, so I ended up helping him. I don’t drink myself and I don’t go out to places where people do, but it was just one of those times we were playing poker at the casino and he had a little too much.After that, he began inviting me out to the bar because I became a valuable “designated driver”. I naturally refused.
That wasn’t a big deal, but the trouble started shortly after. Any time I wanted to hang out with some of my friends, they’d ask me to pick them up. If they came to my house, they’d ask me to drive them back. When I refuse, they become extremely disappointed. Sometimes they’d whine with something like “come on, it’s cold outside and it’s late man!” Somehow just because I had a car now, I was the chauffeur for my friends and family.
So how is that fair? Just because I worked my ass off, bought a car, now it’s my responsibility to drive everyone around? No one thinks about that though. When you refuse to do people favors, they take it personally and assume their value or “worth” to you.
Less free time
All these reasons lead into each other, so less free time is a result of all of the above. Constant interruptions, dealing with whining, complaining friends/family and taking the time out to do the favors that you want to follow through with are actually a waste of time. Of course favors can invest and tighten your relationship with others, but my example in reason four shows the opposite is also true.
As nice as you want to be, we have to face the fact that people’s computer problems, transportation problems, work problems, etc are their responsibilities, not ours. Taking on someone’s responsibilities is just babysitting them. Sure, helping a friend is one thing, but be careful not to fall into these traps. Remember that your long term goals always come first. Interruptions to your goals or lifestyle should be last.
On a lighter note, your friends and family aren’t these sly, schemers waiting to use you, they’re simply getting comfortable with you as an option. This happens naturally as well, so don’t take it personally when someone asks for help. Explain that you can do so on your time “this one time” or maybe say “I can help you here, but I’ll show you Uber for next time because I can’t always drive you.” Set up your boundaries ahead of time so you don’t end up in a sensitive situation.