Have you ever asked someone to do something, and they said they already did? When I practiced law, my secretary anticipated so many of my needs. This certainly provided a great deal of relief.
Have you ever thought, “I can’t believe they did that. Talk with me first.” It can also sometimes be frustrating when people act without permission or consent.
More often than not, people seem grateful when someone opens a door (particularly when hands and arms look full). Of course, the occasional person says, “I can get it myself.”
What is at play here? Humans have a need for connection and contribution. Opening a door may meet those. Humans also have a need for autonomy and self-expression. Opening a door by one’s self may provides that.
Humans also wish for respect. Each person views what respect looks like differently.
It happens in relationships with a partner or friend making dinner reservations without discussing it first. It happens in the workplace when an administrator submits a draft report without consulting with the author.
What do you when receiving this unrequested “help?” To maintain trust in the relationship, engage in conversation with the person directly. Talking with another friend or colleague usually only makes matters worse. These three tips may help:
1) Appreciate the consideration. Whether or not you wanted the help, act as if the person behaved with good intentions of being helpful. Express gratitude for that. “I really appreciate you taking the lead and making reservations. I love that restaurant and the time works perfectly.”
2) State your need. If you prefer a conversation before someone “helps” in the future, let them know. “It is important for me to contribute (or choose my schedule).” If you love that the person took the lead, say that as well, “It really shows me that you care about spending time together.”
3) Make a specific request. Let the person know what you prefer to see happen in the future. “I am grateful the time and location worked. Will you please just talk before making reservations in the future?” If fully appreciate the gesture, simply again say, “Thank you.”
Contributing and “showing” respect may or may not always be respectful or helpful.
How do you prevent or address conflict at home or in the workplace? Having conversations up front about when it’s okay to act independently and when to collaborate makes a difference.
Wondering if someone appreciates the help? Asking tends to be the best way to learn.