How would you feel if you’d recently helped someone out of a jam? Perhaps they were struggling to meet a financial obligation and you were in a position to help. After confirming how much they needed you gave them the money, no questions asked about what it was for, no expectation of it being repaid. Imagine your reaction if only a few hours later you were contacted by them with a request for more money!
It would certainly dilute the warm feeling you got from having helped them out before. That would probably evaporate under a haze of disappointment, whilst wondering if you’d been used, perhaps questioning why you’d bothered! As such, the relationship could well be changed forever.
There are many situations in life that are not dissimilar.
– New grandparents are often thrilled to be asked to help out with childcare or babysitting, only to then find themselves so heavily relied upon that they can’t make any plans, not even for a coffee or a lunch date with friends, without checking in first. Holidays have to be arranged months in advance.
And often there’s very little appreciation of their commitment. Because children are involved it may even be seen as a special honour for them to be fortunate enough to be so much a part of their grandchildren’s lives. Some balance could be introduced by ensuring that grandparents are included in the fun times too. Not merely treated as unpaid babysitters.
– In a work setting building a new business or focussing on a change in direction may require everyone to work longer hours and be totally dedicated, but ultimately there has to be a limit to spending endless days on the road or in meetings. After a time all joy dissipates, while enthusiasm and critical thinking become a weary memory.
Sometimes it’s worth considering hiring extra people to share the load. There could well be routine or more mundane tasks that could be outsourced. It’s worth demonstrating that you’re mindful of staff welfare before members of the team beg, ‘please don’t ask for more from us’!
– At a personal level, sometimes we have to decide when enough is enough. How long do we keep on chasing success, working ever harder, accumulating more possessions, money, status. Certainly the global pandemic provided a wake-up call for many by providing time to reflect on priorities and less opportunity to spend money, socialise and take holidays overseas. Money became less important, whilst time in nature, our relationships with friends, family and pets became far more relevant to our mental health and wellbeing.
– Interestingly, too much attention can sometimes be overwhelming too. When someone wants to be with us constantly, join us in everything we do, share all our interests and free time, we can find ourselves saying, ‘please don’t ask for more, I’ve nothing left to give!’ It can be good to keep a little of ourselves in reserve, have some separate interests, friends and activities that are personal to ourselves. Apart from anything, it provides more varied conversations and adds interest to the times when we are together.
– When we’re busy, trying to prove something or achieve an important goal we will often ask for more and more from ourselves, sometimes hardly noticing that we’ve become irritable, unhappy and our relationships are suffering. We may find our sleep’s affected and we’re stressed most of the time. It can be tempting to tell ourselves that we’ll keep going for now, that there’s not too long to go.
But when we overload ourselves we become less efficient as a consequence. Taking breaks, respecting ourselves, our lives and our relationships are all important investments in our health and wellbeing. Spending time on these areas ensures that we feel better able to dedicate quality time to achieving results and working well.
– And if we’re working collaboratively with others it’s good to remember that we don’t know how much effort has been required when we ask someone to commit to work towards their target. We’re only able to appreciate something from our own perspective, but stopping and taking time to reflect on the other person’s investment, the effort they’ve made and their possible sacrifices is important too.
Being aware of our personal boundaries is a key component in protecting ourselves from being increasingly asked for more. If we show that we’re happy to help, to be supportive and demonstrate that we’re a good friend there are those who would abuse our willingness and take it as a green light to continue making demands.
Sometimes our giving becomes so taken for granted that we receive little or no acknowledgement of our previous help and support. That could well be the time to stand up, refuse to continue being obliging and insist on better treatment from now on.