Earlier this week, I got an e-mail from an acquaintance which basically started off… “Hey man, you know a lot about [x], right? So would you recommend…”
That in itself isn’t so offensive. But when someone routinely takes and takes (advice, help, my time via his rantings, etc.) and never gives (a sincere “How are things?”, a random “Hey, I was thinking of you” without a request for help, etc.)… well, that just gets incredibly annoying.
Luckily, I don’t know many people like this. I have much better taste in friends, and I’ve been really pleased to end up with colleagues who are consistently thoughtful and personable. But still… there are still enough clueless leeches I hear from that I ought to come up with decent ways of addressing this situation. And I’d love some of your insight and recommendations!
In my undergraduate days, I learned the hard way that there are always a few people around you that—deliberately or unintentionally—will consistently take advantage of you for as long as you let them.
I clearly remember one particularly notable example of this back from my undergrad days. Just as I had in high school, I provided piano accompaniment services free of charge to my fellow students, and dammit, I was actually quite good :-D. Before college, I had enjoyed thoughtful cards, even gifts from those I accompanied, and so understandably I expected more of the same in college. But it was not to be; even after helping a woman get selected as a understudy for a lead role in a prominent broadway touring company, I don’t even think I got as much as a thank you.
So after one too many of such inexplicable snubs, I literally walked back to my dorm room and cried. A friend (clearly a true friend, though I don’t remember who) promptly gave me some tough love and said something along the lines of this:
“Look, man, you’re an idiot. You’re accompanying all these people for FREE. And then you wonder why you get stepped on? Charge money for crissake! People believe they get what they pay for. You’re free. You’re not worth anything, so you’re treated as worthless.”
So, reluctantly at first, I started charging money. Sure enough, I continued to get gigs, and along with the gigs I also got thank you cards, invitations to parties, even small gifts in addition to the cash. I must admit to having still slightly resented what I felt was such utter stupidity (I hadn’t gotten any better as a pianist; I wasn’t actually worth more!) But over time, I realized… hey, that’s just the way the world is sometimes.
* * *
This isn’t to say that I think there’s no room for kindness, particularly random acts thereof :-D. But I’ve learned that I have to treat and portray what I have to offer—time and talent—as valuable, or risk losing respect.
So this brings me to an interesting decision. When faced (most commonly via IM or e-mail) with another Attack of the Selfish Person, should I:
1) Simply ignore them.
2) Actually block them on IMs.
3) Make excuses why I “can’t” help them.
4) Give them a clue as to how selfish they are.
I’ve typically done a variation of #3. Sometimes helping a bit, other times noting that I’m busy and hoping they’ll get the hint. They typically don’t.
I find #1 to be just simply rude (two wrongs don’t make a right), and #2 to be a bit too much on the passive-aggressive side.
So that leaves #4. I’m tempted to say something like the following:
“You know, I’ve avoided saying this because I don’t wish to sound meanspirited, but… for the umpteenth straight time, you’ve asked for something or rambled on about your life or both and NOT ONCE have you asked how I’m doing or suggested a willingness to help me out with anything. In short, you’ve just come across as REALLY SELFISH. I thought about just ignoring you, but I figured, hey, maybe you don’t realize how you’re coming across. And maybe by giving you a bit more self-awareness, I can save from you someone you *really* care about from simply telling you off.”
Then again, I really despise confrontation, and—given the fact that these folks’ behavior has made me NOT care about them—do I really even owe them the favor of a clue?
It’s hard to say. I do wish, as I was growing up, that more of my peers or teachers had given ME a clue. After all, I’m happy with how my life has turned out, but I could have achieved a sense of peace and self-worth and a robust social circle a lot sooner had more folks kindly but firmly offered me some harsh but helpful feedback.
And frankly, I don’t really believe that the selfish folks I’ve referenced above are bad much less evil people. I’m guessing they just don’t understand how they’re coming across or why their one-sided interactions might be so annoying.
* * *
But enough of my musings.
1) Do you know selfish people like this?
2) How do you handle ‘em?
3) Do you have any interesting or funny stories of successful clueings-in? Or “interventions” gone horribly or hilariously wrong?