Contribution Caveats Part 2
In part 1 we saw that when you start to contribute to other people’s Lives, you sometimes run into unexpected unpleasantness. Such unpleasantness can make giving a horrible experience, which is not what we want. We looked at one of these energy drains – the user. I suggested ways you might deal with this problem.
Today we’ll look at another caveat you should consider – unexpected hostility.
II. Beware Backlash
One thing that you might encounter as you practise giving – especially if you’ve moved beyond immediate family and close friends to acquaintances and strangers – is unexpected backlash. This is negative reaction that can be especially disheartening (provided your motives are pure) simply because we are not conditioned to expecting it in return for acts of kindness (AOKs).
Some people are genuinely suspicious, and hey, it’s understandable. It’s not always a nice world out there. When someone – especially one we don’t know well or at all – does something nice, it’s normal to be suspicious. Too many people are ‘spoiling the market’ of giving. An acquaintance offers you a kind word as a funnel to sending you to an MLM meeting. A player offers a girl a compliment as a setup to getting her to put out. A stranger offers to help carry your grocery shopping and then runs away with them.
So it’s no wonder people are suspicious.
Does this mean stop giving?
The AA35 philosophy replies with a resounding NO.
It is right to make adding to people’s Lives part of your Life. That means taking action that impacts people’s Lives when you can make a difference. If you withhold your help for fear of rejection, then you won’t ever help anybody.
But you can minimize unpleasantness resulting from ingratitude, hostility and misunderstanding. You do this by starting with little AOKs first. These are low investment, low cost ways that aren’t threatening and over in just a few seconds.
Something in decent people makes them uncomfortable to take too much from anyone, or let someone go to great lengths for them. Even if you were a millionaire and gifted $5k to someone fallen on hard times, most people would be uncomfortable to accept. Only greedy people are happy to take expensive donations or lavish gifts from relative strangers, and these are the last people you should give anything to.
That’s why I recommend you titrate your level of contribution to the level of familiarity you have with someone. There is a huge difference between just one smile at a stressed receptionist, and giving her advice on dealing with unhappiness like some know-it-all.
- Write a note of appreciation to a hardworking staff in your workplace
- Speak up for the receptionist being bombarded by an unreasonable customer
- Compliment the overworked bartender for his good service
- If a waiter has given you exceptional service, give a bigger tip than the minimum
- Hold the door open for the person behind you (Don’t expect thanks in Singapore)
- Give up your seat on the MRT to someone who needs it
- When someone comes to your house to do a job, such as a plumber, carpenter, maintenance person etc, give him a can of 100 plus
- If you know someone in financial difficulty, drop them some money in an envelope anonymously. Sometimes, even $5 or $10 can make a lot of difference
- Smile more!
Accumulate some of these, and you’ll get the feel of what’s comfortable to give and accept for different people in your Life.
Sometimes, how you respond to hostility can change people’s attitudes too. When this happens, try to take the opportunity to sow the seed. For example, when I get anything from a hesitant to hostile “What do you want?” I seize the chance to say “Do the same for someone else in the future.” That usually prompts second thoughts.
There a couple of special points to take note of.
There may be an added layer of complexity if two people are of opposite genders. If you’re a guy offering help to a girl, you may create the misunderstanding that you’re interested in her. At this point just walk away or tell her directly she doesn’t interest you. And if you’re a girl offering help to a guy, you may get quite the opposite problem: way too much interest than you actually want!
I generally recommend doing any helping through a third party so you don’t come into the picture at all. I like that this also has the benefit of doing good anonymously without getting anything in return. This modus operandi can help avoid the unpleasantness that can arise from any opposite gender misunderstandings that leave you embarrassed and angry for your pains.
Nuts and Crazies
Sometimes, you meet people who are just plain crazy. They react with the most unpredictable responses you could imagine. Once I approached a lady to help her with some groceries and she practically shouted at me to get lost. Another time on the MRT I offered a seat to an elderly person who cursed me out for it and kept on swearing at me throughout the ride. In these cases, there is no need to reason, there’s really no win and it’s best to just cut your losses and forget it.
In Closing: Give to Good
One of my Life Principles is: add positively to the Lives of good people around me.
There is a reason why I specified “good people”.
See, there are plenty of people you could help and give to. But if you were to do so indiscriminately for every single person, you’d quickly run out of resources. It’s important not to waste your resources on undeserving people, and since your ability to give is finite, it makes sense to give to good people.
Nowadays I am more selective, and choose more carefully who I help. For example I will not do anything for someone who has clearly shown to be self-centred, behaves with evil intention, or would be extremely hostile to any sort of ‘help’. People like that drain you and are likely to sour the experience of contribution, and really aren’t worth the time.
Obviously, who’s “good” is going to be subjective. And it’s something you have to decide for yourself because ultimately, you’re giving in a way that makes you feel fulfilled. I have my own concept of who is decent and deserving, and you will too. The point here is, do be selective.
Just as I want to create positive associations with exercise for a client just starting out, I want that for someone just starting to adopt giving as a philosophy. Allowing yourself to give to people who will make you feel poorly about giving won’t do that.
I really recommend though that you avoid those who are selfish, greedy, and taking all the time. These people are easy enough to spot because many are so self-centred they don’t even think to hide their motivations. These are people who will use your acts of kindness (AOKs) to benefit themselves so that they can save their own resources for… themselves. It’s people who won’t appreciate your AOKs for what they are, but something they can take advantage of to benefit… themselves. It’s people who have never given to others, contributed to others, and helped others.
These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.
Finally, one reason contribution is so important to the AA35 idea of living a full Life is the force multiplier effect. You want to touch Lives, but not just through immediate action or benefit. You hope your actions will inspire similar action in others. If you do one AOK to ten people a week, and each of those did the same for another ten, you are going create a magnificent chain reaction. Imagine if this continued ad infinitum. Your creation would outlive you. Every small AOK could change Lives and it would be a legacy, even if no one ever knows about it.