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I am not a fan of Robert Heinlein. There are many reasons for this but one of them is about the traits of his novels’ heroes. They are often ‘The self-sufficient man’. The fellows could do everything themselves thus never needing help from others. Mr. Heinlein extols his readers (mostly boys) to be likewise and he castigates thems who do not. Asking for help is a sign of failure. The truth is the opposite: we continually need help. We are a species that evolved to live in groups and cooperate to achieve our survival. All day long we seek assistance from others.

Throughout my workday I listen to patients’ fears. There are usual ones like public speaking, flying, and animals with nasty pointed teeth. “Asking for help” is a subtle but ubiquitous anxiety for most, which is odd as we all do it and need to. Many people avoid asking for help as they fear rejection or the judgment of others for doing so. I think men suffer most from the Shadow side of the Self-sufficient Man archetype.*

I try to teach patients it is OK to ask for help. To better their chances of getting results and feeling good about the process I give’m a few tips. We tend to ask for help badly, You would think by now we would be good at it. Many ask do so in an apologetic manner (I’m sooo sorry to bother you) and don’t communicate the specifics.  We often ask for help via text or email thinking this is the best way. Studies support the opposite: we are much more likely to get a ‘yes’ reply if we ask for help face to face or a phone call. Another matter to consider: we are awful at registering a person wants or needs help, yet people often assume our loved ones can sense we need help so they don’t directly ask and become upset when the others don’t pick up on our allegedly obvious vibes. I can’t remember the exact term for thi, but it is based on the illusion of transparency. Bottom line: you have to ask, even those you think should be able to read your mind.

When I need help I first tell my Self-Sufficient Man Complex shaming me yeah, I hear you but buzz off. Then find the person I want to ask and do so face to face. “I need your help” I say. Then I state in simple, realistic, and clear words what I want. “I need you to call this patient back for me to say she needs to come in” or “I want you please to call Hector (the groundskeeper) to come tidy up the yard” or “Thank you! I can’t get into my account I want you to help me figure out why not”.   Another tip: if there help was helpful, tell them about it later. “I wanted to let you know your help was really helpful, thank you”.

Let’s stop giving The Self-Sufficient Man more libido (psychic energy) than he needs or deserves.

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*The cliché of men not asking for directions touches spot-on this archetype.

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