As long time readers of David’s and my blog know, I am almost constantly barraged with people’s requests for me to help them. This is, as I tell many people, the story of my life. I help people who need my help, both in my professional life as well as in my personal life. I spend countless hours, uncompensated, helping people, including during evening hours and on weekends. I don’t begrudge the assistance I provide to people who are going through a difficult time and who have no one else to ask for help. All I usually ask is that the person who has sought out my help be cooperative so that I may help him/her. This cooperation includes being on time for appointments that have been scheduled for me to provide assistance for the problem du jour. On the day of this writing, I waited, in vain, for an attorney to call me at a pre-appointed time (of his choosing) regarding a seminar in which he wanted me to participate. Yes, participating in seminars for attorneys is, arguably, part of my job, however, in that I am receiving no remuneration for the time it takes to prepare for the seminar; travel (in this case, 10 hours) to the seminar; stay at a hotel, pay for transportation, food, etc.; and deliver my presentation at the seminar; I don’t think it is too much to ask for the person who is asking me for all these things to call me on time. The attorney who so desperately wanted to speak with me never called, not at the time that had been agreed upon, not a few minutes late, never. Thankfully, I learned long ago not to wait on tardy people. After 15 minutes passed, I asked someone to contact this attorney in order to reschedule the phone call for a “more convenient time,” in that the time to which we had agreed was, obviously, not convenient for him. Evidently, I made the right decision not to wait around until for the phone call as it was never going to happen! This situation has, unfortunately, happened all too often. First impressions being what they are, I now perceive this person who wants me to do him and his colleagues a favor in a rather unfavorable light (pun intended). The point of this post is, if you need someone’s help, if you want someone to do you a favor, if you want something of value for free, it is to your advantage to not make the person you are asking regret helping you. The easier you make things, the more likely your request for a favor will be given.
I don’t recall the specific incident that prompted this post. In fact, this type of situation seems so common that it is difficult to pinpoint it at all. It is not rare, it is, unfortunately, common. It is not that we’re picking on our clients, all of whom happen to be lawyers; no, we’re not picking on lawyers. I suspect this scenario is common in many professions. People are busy and putting out the fires which are burning the hottest. Some of these favors have been for things like the speaking engagements. I’ve discussed doing such programs for many law firms and insurance companies. The initial interest seems strong, but when it comes time to put it together, there is often little follow up. But, I think the phenomenon is greater than that. On the personal side, even when others need help, want help, and ask for help, there is sometimes a resistance to actually accepting the help or advice. Perhaps it is not what the person wanted to hear or what they were expecting. Who knows. But, even people as generous with their time as Melissa is can be frustrated when the “helpee” is not helping himself or herself. Maybe they are late for a phone call or a meet up. Maybe they are slow to take action. Whatever the friction is, the act of helping works best when the helper is rewarded by at least a thank you and an acknowledgment of the effort being expended on the others’ behalf. When the help one provides is seen as an entitlement by the “helpee” it becomes increasingly difficult to provide said help. I’m thinking of how different friends of ours have responded to our help, often financial help. Some were takers, some were appreciative. The reader can easily imagine which of these two types of people we continue to help.