We often imagine that the best way to endear ourselves to others is never to bother to them – and always to fit in with their plans. But that’s to miss out on a great yet hidden truth of social life: in certain circumstances, people quite like to be asked for help; friendship builds when we can make ourselves vulnerable enough to show our need.
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“We tend to operate with the view that the best way to please people is not to bother them too much. We keep many of our dilemmas and confusions away from those we like, for fear of irritating or inconveniencing them and so spoiling the relationship. We may well have a voice echoing in our minds from childhood: ‘Don’t bother your mother, can’t you see she’s exhausted from her trip? Don’t bother your father, he works hard for us and he’s busy right now…’ There are powerful reasons why we equate making others happy with burdening them as little as possible.
But our analysis is missing a key detail of human psychology: we like to be bothered. Not at all time and over all things, nor at the expense of our own critical needs, but fundamentally, we have a powerful urge to feel helpful. We need to be needed. All of us suffer from a fear of superfluity, which the requirements of others has a critical capacity to appease. However nice presents may be for our friends, the real gift we can offer them is an insight into our problems…”
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