A while back, a teacher at Child’s school asked me for some help. After several weeks of him being cagey about what he actually wanted, he admitted part (but as little as possible) of his SooperSekrit Master Plan. Turned out, we were already scheduled that day, so we couldn’t help him. I told him so (months ago), and provided a few contacts that might be able to help him instead. Since then, about every 10 days or so, he sends me a hostile email about how he still needs help for his event. And every 10 days or so (for 2 months), I sent him a reply that said “we can’t”. The contacts that I provided apparently also can’t help, but he seems to still think that I’m now responsible for making his event a success, and just keep providing options to him. I’ve stopped responding to his emails. He can’t read and process that I have my own things going on, and it’s *his* event, not mine. I don’t feel any additional obligation. But apparently, by the now-dozens of emails, increasingly accusatory that I’m not helping him (when I said from the start that I couldn’t), he feels like I’ve not satisfactorily fulfilled my obligation to him.
When you ask for help, it’s a request for aid in addition to what’s already happening. If you didn’t make sure that you had sufficient contacts and support on your event before you barreled ahead anyway, that’s on you. I shared some contacts with this guy. If he’s been a big an ass to them as he is being to me, I feel like I owe my contacts an apology for dragging them into this shitshow.
So I’ve been thinking about where obligation ends. A conversation flowchart goes like this:
Can you help me?
– Option 1: Yes (and then the negotiated help happens)
– Options 2: No I can’t (and then the person finds another person to ask).
But this one went off the rails, and apparently by even trying to help him, he feels like I took on responsibility for completing the help contract and making his event a success. When someone tries to leach help out of you, instead of you being able to give it freely, it makes you unwilling to do what they want. But it makes you question trying to help the next time. No one likes Forced Marches. And saying “Thank you for everything you’ve done so far, but really, it’s not enough. I still need more” is just passive-aggressive. I come from Italian Catholic. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to lay the guilt on me.
I was speaking to one of the contacts I provided, and I apologized to him about involving him in this whole thing. He said it sounds like this guy wants himself and his hockey team *to be SEEN doing the thing*, more than he actually cares about doing the thing.
Since I spend many many hours of my week (and month and year) in service to the cadets, I realized that he was right. Looking back, the first few conversations when the answer to ‘what do you need’ was “we’re doing a year of Remembrance”. Yes… and that means…? He seemed to not want to show his cards because… what? I was going to steal his thunder? He wanted something from me, but didn’t really want to tell me why, or admit to anyone else what he actually wanted. So everyone kind of got tired of him (Even if they maybe could have helped), and they left him to his mysterious paranoid purposes.
Who remembers the part of Dude, Where’s my Car, when Kelso is ordering Chinese food at the drive through? After each item Kelso orders, the person in the restaurant taking the order says “And then”. He says “That’s all”, and she says “and then” , and he has to say “NO MORE AND THEN” about 15 times before she’s willing to admit the end of the order. No up-sell, no additional items. Nomoreand’den.
This is the kind of behaviour that gives me the whitehotfury, too. A while ago, a charity to whom I donate called to ask for more. I said I couldn’t give them any more. They said “how about just a little more”. And I said no. They said” how about it we make it a little more this other way, instead”. And I stopped donating to them.
Stop telling people that they’re not doing enough. You wanted me to support you, so I did, and you had to go wreck it because you don’t know what No means. Srsly. How you feel now that you lost all my support?
These two experiences provided the textbook worst way to behave when looking for help. It got me thinking… I ask for help all the time – from veterans, from the Legion, from the Regiment, from other cadet corps and squadrons, from my family and friends. I hope I’ve never been as awful a supplicant. I apologize profusely and sincerely if I have. I like to think that I have the kind of relationship with most of my peers that they would have kicked my ass if I was so equally arrogant and petulant.
As we’re running on fumes at the tail end of the Thanksgiving weekend, I want to thank everyone who is gracious and generous with their time and resources – whether with me, or any other friend, peer, colleague, family member (of origin or choice), cause, or group. It’s with the passion and good humour of others that shit gets done. If you’ve helped with that, at all, ever, good on you.