The “Nice” Problem

Sep 28, 2013 by

Have you ever had this happen:

You drive up to a four-way stop.  Just before you arrive, a car has stopped on your right stops.  Without a doubt, the rules of the road say that he is the car that is supposed to go next.  You come to a stop and, instead of going, he waves you forward.

This situation irks me so much.  The idea behind it is that the driver is being nice to you.  However, this act puts you in an awkward position.  If you go first, you have violated the law.  However, if you try wait for him, he just keeps sitting there because he wants to be nice whether you like it or not.  The reason this problem is perpetuated is because people have developed this idea that doing something you perceive as helpful is actually being helpful.  The car is perceiving the situation as being helpful.  He thinks that by letting you go first, he has helped you.  In reality, he is putting you in an uncomfortable position.  However, he doesn’t care if you want help because it is his help, he can give it whether you like it or not, hence his waiting for you for a long time if you refuse to go.

The problem these people have is distinguishing between the question, “can I help someone?” and the question, “does this person want my help?”  A couple of examples could be given.  You wash some clothes in your washing machine at home.  You don’t know that they are done.  Your roommate comes through and sees that they are done.  He puts them in the dryer for you and runs the drier on normal.  He walks away thinking he was helpful.  However, these clothes were air-dry only.  Now all your clothes are ruined.  When you as your roommate about it, he says, “Hey, I was only trying to help.”

Another example is you are working on a puzzle, you walk out of the room for a second to get a drink.  Your roommate walks in and sees where several pieces go and puts them in place for you.  You come back and see a small portion of the puzzle done for you.  However, you were looking forward to the accomplishment of doing this puzzle on your own.  Again, the excuse:  “I was only trying to help.”

A final example is your at home when your cousin comes over.  Unbeknownst to your roommate, your cousin tries to get money out of people to buy drugs.  Your cousin and you are talking when your cousin asks, “Hey, I’m sorry to ask, but could I borrow a hundred dollars?”  You answer by saying that you don’t have any money on you, because you don’t really want to say no.  Your roommate hears this and says, “oh don’t worry, you can borrow it from me and pay me back later.”  Your cousin takes the money and leaves and your roommate’s excuse is “I was only trying to help.”

Whenever you want to help someone, unless it is urgent or someone is in danger, keep in mind that they might not want help.  People like to govern themselves and to assume that you can do things “for” them without asking is to come into their life and take control from them.

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1 Comment

  1. Heather Malone

    combo breaker

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