Help Giver or Help Seeker? Let Gratitude Fuel the Ride

I’ve always been at odds with the adage: “Good guys (and gals) always finish last.” It implies that being a team player, going the extra mile, or helping coworkers is a negative career strategy.

Often we’re warned that if we’re too generous with our time and talents at work, we’ll get taken advantage of. Well, maybe, but it’s worth the risk.

Most of us lend a hand because we:

  • Can’t help ourselves; it’s how we’re wired, raised, or compelled
  • Can put our knowledge and skills to good use
  • Care about the person or group in need
  • Enjoy collaborating, teamwork, and a new challenge

Our initial desire to help doesn’t usually consider the downside. We step up because it feels good.

The double-edged sword

Helping goes two ways: we give it one day and need it the next. We may go for long periods without needing help, but we’re pretty sure our time will come.

I’m as guilty as the next for resisting offers of help for reasons like:

  • I don’t want to be a bother
  • My need isn’t that important
  • I think I can take care of it myself (when I really can’t)
  • I’ll wait for something “really big” down the road

So I refrain from asking when I should, even when others are offering help.

At the same time, I’m eager to help someone else. I love nothing more than frantic phone calls from friends and clients who have some new craziness at work to figure out. This gives me a chance to provide help as a gift, my act of gratitude for their confidence and friendship.

Counted on or counted out

To help and be helped bind us. At work we need each other to:

  • Get the work done
  • Avoid being blindsided
  • Build our knowledge and skills
  • Create and innovate

We need coworkers we can count on and they need us too.

The other day I was thinking about the “helpers-in-waiting” in my life. These are the professionals I can call anytime with a question or a problem–special people who know who I am and care sincerely about helping me like my attorney, my accountant, my computer specialist, my personal physician, and my large and small animal veterinarians.

These aren’t people I talk to every day or month or year, but when I need them, I really do and  pronto. They don’t have to drop everything when I call, but most of the time they do. That raises my gratitude level and they know it.

A help-seeker’s gratitude expands when the help giver:

  • Acknowledges the need and responds quickly
  • Does a thorough job done and gives sound advice
  • Is fair and trustworthy
  • Communicates information and answers questions clearly
  • Takes a warm, pleasant approach and even shows a sense of humor

The help-giver’s gratitude comes from the help seeker’s:

In a business environment, no one is obligated to provide selfless help just because someone is paying for services. I know plenty of highly paid individuals who don’t provide help that generates gratitude. In too many cases, their help creates resentment.

Be kind, be helpful

In my view, the good guys and gals finish first. They attract a community of like-minded people who help because they want to, promoting a spirit of gratitude that is contagious.

Each day we need to reach out to others while expressing thanks to those helping us, in even the smallest ways. Recognize helpfulness in an email, a voice mail, a word in passing, a greeting card, an invitation to lunch, a “how are you doing” inquiry, or an offer of support. Gratitude costs nothing and makes a big difference.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and other post posts here. Believe me, I am enormously grateful for your interest, your comments, and your support.

Photo from smiles 7 via Flickr

6 thoughts on “Help Giver or Help Seeker? Let Gratitude Fuel the Ride

  1. Beautiful post Dawn.
    “Helping goes two ways: we give it one day and need it the next. We may go for long periods without needing help, but we’re pretty sure our time will come.” Because help goes two ways, it’s important that you/I/all are willing to receive help. A perceived imbalance can make it hard to ask for help when you feel like you’ve been so much on the receiving end.

    • Thanks so much, Cherry. I love your point about that “perceived imbalance.” I sure have been there. There’s a whole negative label around “being needy” that when we’re really in need we brush it off because we don’t want the label. Then there’s your point about worrying that we’re accepting too much help. The problem with help is we think it’s a linear function. I help you and you help me, rather than an exponential one where you help me and I help someone else who helps someone else. It’s a little like having a friend who always picks up the check, knowing that you really can’t afford to. At some point you feel like you don’t want to eat out with them. In truth, help isn’t an equation. You and I both give help freely to individuals (gosh, that’s what our blogs do) because we can, knowing that there is other help they need that we can’t provide. Once we get used to the circularity of it and accept it, the issue starts to resolve itself. Hey, no one said any of this stuff was easy! See once again, you got me thinking in an expanded direction. Ah, help is a wondrous thing! ~Dawn

      • It’s just too bad that the idea of helping has developed quite a bad image among some people. When did helpfulness become a bad quality? I’ve also known some people who are wary of offers to help, thinking that the one offering will simply take the credit for all the work.

        • Susan, I agree. I don’t know if we’ve become essentially distrustful, overly wary about our image, or concerned that we’ll end up being duped if we help others. Perhaps it’s a function of being connected but not really personally. As much as we’re almost overly connected, we don’t necessarily relate or find a way to empathize by identifying with someone else’s needs. I always love the phrase, “There but by the grace of God go I.” It’s not a religious statement but an awareness that life can throw me a curve ball just like anyone else. The desire to be helpful is as much for ourselves as someone else. Thanks so much for this great comment! ~Dawn

    • It’s easy to feel that way, Kathy, and hard to resist. But I agree that we’re all better off looking at the upside since it gives us a chance to add one more positive act. Thanks for commenting, ~Dawn

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