Who else faced a situation where a proactive act of kindness is faced with rejection? 🙋♀️🙋♂️
Well done! You should be really proud of yourself for being not only kind but also proactive in reaching out to others in hopes to help them. 👍
Throughout my career, I am placed in a position where I have to reach out to others and provide support for them. As a teacher, I had to work with students and extend a helping hand to those that need help. Often, we teachers had to explore different means to communicate to students in hope to inspire change in them. As you might have guess, some of these styles may be harsher despite being done out of good intentions. Currently, I am also supporting innovation in my company which also involves trying to get people to change their existing way of doing stuffs and explore alternative and possibly (to a high degree of confidence) more efficient ways of getting work done.
While these are exact reason why I love my job(s) – i.e. helping others become better, such assistance are not always appreciated or even welcomed. I hope to share a few reasons why this is the reason so and I hope that with this awareness, it will help us better appreciate the reason for rejection or lack of appreciation and hopefully, encourage us to continue to be proactive in helping others.
Understanding why kindness is not appreciated
The recipient is not ready to accept help. This is a simple case that the recipient see no purpose/need for change. The status quo works fine in the individual's perspective and changing up the status quo involves both energy (physical and mental) for adaptation, as well as risk (due to uncertainties from accepting help from an external source). A classic example will be to overcome an addiction. With the lack of intrinsic motivation, external support would come across as intrusive and uncoth.
Your intention is misunderstood. Do not assume that people understand your intentions! Your intentions resides in your own mind which then translates into the actions that you take. But, what others observe and experience are your very actions, which may or may not be perceived as per your intent. Imagine you are a tourist (I know it seems like a distant past in this COVID times) and as you are navigating around the neighbourhood, someone came up to you to offer to guide you around. Would you accept this help? Personally, I would most likely reject this offer since I am unsure of how to interpret the intention behind this kind act.
Accepting help appears weak While we have discussed about being kind may be viewed as weakness, interestingly, accepting kindness can also be perceived as so. During counselling sessions, many adolescents whom I have worked with often share how they think they can manage by themselves despite failing numerous subjects. While it might seem like a display of resilience (which should be commended), often, this is due to being concerned about "losing face (面子)" i.e. appearing weak in front of their peers. We often carry this perception of receiving help as a sign of incompetence into adulthood, causing us to not only be reserved in asking for help, but also shy away from help that is extended to us.
Yield more positive results
In response to the 3 reasons above, here are 3 suggestions on what can be done to address the issues stated above. Note that they do not necessary match by number (i.e. suggestion #1 does not only address issue #1) and these are some approaches I developed from my personal experience so feel free to discuss and share about your approaches in the comments below!
RESPECT others You would NEVER know what another person is feeling and has experienced. There are times where parents assume that they know everything about their child and that is a definite red flag. It is just physically impossible to feel or understand another human being in totality. Even if two people were to be put through an identical experience, each of their reactions and feeling would be very different since everyone is fundamentally different. So while we reach out to others in hope to help them, respect that they may not be ready to accept this assistance (yet). There might even be times where the recipient is clearly aware of the negatives involved in their choice of action but insist on their way. Depending on the consequences, sometimes actually the right thing for them to reject help. Afterall, there are lessons which cannot be taught and has to be learnt by oneself.
Communicate and focus on the intent, NOT the action Be as straightforward and candid as you can when expressing your intent for assisting. It help to share your feeling as well and not just assume that others can and will interpret your kind intents based on your actions. If it pains you to see how the person struggles at the task, literally tell her "hey Sam, it pains me to see you spent a good portion of your day struggling with...". Also, allow others to suggest ways that they will prefer to receive help in. Afterall, your intent is to help the person so does the way that help is given matter as much? Actually, this is not a rhetorical question since there may be times that the party does not fully comprehend the options and outcomes. This is often the case when the recipient is of a position with less experience (I work with youths remember?). There may be times that the approach that they suggest may not be sound. Yet, by focusing on communicating our intent to help and not dictate what is to be done, we keep communication channels open for more productive discussions and ultimately yield better results.
Build rapport In fact, the previous two suggestions lead up to this. Whether someone takes your suggestions depend largely (if not entirely) on the level of confidence and trust they have on you. With good rapport, one is less likely to question your intentions and would be more ready to accept your help. They will not mind appearing "weak" in front of you and would be better able to see beyond that (with some convincing on your end). With given the respect that you show along with proper communication, I am sure that over time, a strong rapport will be build and which will develop into more pleasant and constructive engagements.
Finally, I would like to end off that it is really okay for kindness to go unappreciated. It feels lousy but I hope that through this post, you will find that it is not strange for others to respond this way. I also believe that a simple act of kindness would create beautiful energy that ripples through the society. Give everyone some space and more time to communicate and build mutual respect. Take a moment to imagine such a community... Seems really lovely to me! 🥰
Right form of help for the right people (who need it)!
Posted a little later due to the effects of 2nd dose of vaccination! As always thanks for reading and I look forward to reading your comments. 😁