I thought I was being Helpful, until I saw I was being Transactional.
I don’t know of a single person who would not like to think of themselves as being helpful to others. A helpful attitude comes from a sincere desire to be of service to those needing support. Being helpful is a gift we give and we rarely want or receive anything in return. An act of kindness is simply being neighborly. It involves giving time and effort to make someone else’s life easier which is its own reward. Consider stopping on the road to help an older person change a flat tire. We do this out of a sense for the plight of the person in need and know how much we would appreciate help if we were in that situation.
Those on the receiving end of such kindness typically feel an eminence relief for getting a task done they would have had difficulty doing themselves. They can’t think of words to truly express their thanks for the help and may have a sense of indebtedness for the help they received. “Pay it forward” is what the giver typically says to an offer of compensation. To extract anything of emotional or tangible value from the receiver would be to negate the underlying nature of an act of helping.
Compare this with an act of managing a situation where some form of compliance is expected. This is the type of interaction many of us have with our children when we want them to complete a task, exhibit respectful behavior in public, or to stop fighting with their brother. We attempt to make it clear that they will get something they want as a reward if they comply or, alternatively, they will get something they don’t want if our demands are not met. It never occurs to us that we could help them pick up their toys rather than demanding that they do it “immediately” and thereby demonstrate a subtle but powerful example of how to act.
It may well be our intent to provide a helpful lesson to the child that there are consequences for not following directions. But for the transactional person the focus is on supervision, organization, and performance rather than meeting needs or being helpful. People using the transactional model tend to find fault and identify deviations. Those on the receiving end of this type of management tend to feel controlled, supervised, or even dominated. If this persists over time, a sense of fear persists and a sense of gratitude does not develop. Without a sense of gratitude, we see life as a non-giving place, filled with scarcity and threat.
How do I transition from a transactional mindset to one of being helpful. It starts with focusing on what we can give instead of what we will receive. An attitude of giving comes from the experience of having received something from someone who asked for nothing in return. If we did not receive the gift of gratitude when we were young, it is likely difficult to feel giving as a natural response. It requires making a conscious choice to be of service and a willingness to sit with feelings disappointment when those receiving the gift seem unappreciative.
So much of the book deals with deals with this difficult process of reprogramming how we act, react and otherwise process our feelings about what we want and don’t want. The theme of this series of assays on Recognizing Our True Behavior deals with the many attitudinal variations that are possible as we are bombarded with things we didn’t anticipate.
How often do I punish myself when my expectations are not realized? What could I do to employ a helpful vs. a transactional model and thereby turn expectations into quiet satisfaction?