Thursday, June 20, 2013

To The Rescue

Do you know a superhero?  The kind of person who is always rescuing others?  Are you that person?  If so, then I have news for you, it may be time you put away your cape and tights because you may be doing more harm than good.

Having been a Superhero/Rescuer all my life, I am well aware of what I am saying.  I know how deeply the desire to save others, especially loved ones, courses through us; and at what cost.  You see, I put away my tights and cape a few years ago and it wasn't easy. 

We see someone struggling, in pain (whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual) and we immediately want to rush in and save them because we "know" we can.  Our intentions are pure - or are they?

Sometimes they are and sometimes not and most of the time we deny the real reason we are rescuing others.  More often than not, we rescue with the secret (mostly unconscious) hope of receiving something in return .  That something can be any number of things:  appreciation, recognition, acknowledgement, love, the list goes on and depending on who it is we are rescuing, what we hope to receive changes.

I can hear you from here, denying that you are secretly hoping for something in return.  Perhaps, once in a while you may just rescue someone without any hidden hopes,  but it really depends on the kind of rescuer you are. 

So, let's just get a feel for the Rescuer/Superhero and see what they look like:

The Lifeguard
Think in terms of a real lifeguard.  Their job is to ensure those in the water are safe.  However, at the first sign of trouble they dive right in, their focus and intent is all on the person in trouble; to rescue them and ensure they are safe.    They reach the person, instruct them to calm them down, focus, and then to have the rescuee participate in their own rescue.  Once both are on land, the lifeguard ensures the individual is OK and one of two things happen:  either the person needs medical attention, in which case the lifeguard calls for medical assistance and once it arrives, the lifeguard's job is done. Or the person is OK and then they lifeguard and individual part ways.  Once the initial crisis is over, the lifeguard's job is done.

Now let's take a look at a different kind of rescuer, I like to call this one:

 Mr or Ms Dependable
We all know someone (or perhaps its us) who can be relied on no matter what.  They are there in a flash, as if by magic, picking up the pieces, sorting things out, fixing everything and making it all better...and they do it time and time again.  No matter who calls or how often, they are there.  They are there because they care; because they love the person they are helping; because they want to help.  They step in and take over the majority of the responsibility to the point where the person being rescued doesn't really need to do too much.

Sometimes though, its a double edged sword because Mr. or Ms. Dependable helps others all the time, they get to the point where they begin to feel taken advantage of and feel that those they have helped should be more appreciative or grateful or loving or "you-fill-in-the-blank".  As time passes, and Mr/Ms. Dependable continue to rescue and continue to feel their efforts go unacknowledged; resentment begins to build and it eventually becomes anger.  The funny thing about the anger is only part of it is directed at the person who is being rescued,  the majority is directed at themselves for allowing themselves to be used, unappreciated, neglected and/or taken advantage of.  There is either a blow up where feelings get voiced (through anger) or Mr/Ms Dependable just distance themselves from those unappreciative individuals; only to repeat the pattern with new people who 'need them' because feeling needed is part of the reason why a rescuer rescues.

Finally, there's our Superhero Rescuer

Oh the Superhero.  Willing to do anything, everything, to save the day.  They are a super-sized Mr./Ms. Dependable.  Going above and beyond the typical rescue and literally stepping in to save others; whether its from themselves or from others.  Superheroes take the "I'll take care of things for you, you don't have to worry" attitude to the extreme.  So much so that the person being rescued doesn't have to do a thing other than allow the Superhero to everything for them.  They are free from responsibility, the Superhero is shouldering that, they can do whatever they want because if it doesn't work out, the Superhero will fix it.

So, like in the Superhero movies, the person being rescued doesn't do a thing to try to free themselves, they take no responsibility for the crisis they are in, its never their fault, they take on the role of the 'victim' and they simply wait around to be rescued.   Speaking of which, have you noticed in the movies that the same person seems to constantly need rescuing over and over again?  And that each rescue becomes bigger, more dramatic, more life-threatening?  Art imitates life my friends.  How often have you rescued the same person from a situation only to have them repeat the pattern again and again, each time the circumstances become worse?  While the Superhero's desire to save the day is based in good intention, what they are actually helping to create is an expectation and dependency on the rescuee's part.  If someone knows you are going to rush in and save them no matter what and they don't have worry or deal with the consequences of their actions/choices, then really, why would they do anything different? If we allow them to become dependent on us, then why are we surprised/annoyed/angry when they call and we go running?  They will continue to do things that will ultimately bring us running to save them, they simply have to wait for us to pull on our tights and cape.  So if we want this to change, their behavior needs to change, which means, we first have to change how we behave in response to them.  Yes, its about us.  We need to change first; we need to pack away the tights and cape.

So where does this leave those of us who have a Rescuer archetype?  Where rescuing is a part of who we are?  Well, it brings us back to the Lifeguard.  You see, as Rescuers, we need to adopt the Lifeguard mode of rescuing.  You dive in when there is a cry for help. (you cannot help or save those who do not want to be helped or saved, remember that!  If they aren't calling then you're not to dive in).  You make sure the person you are rescuing is taking part in their own rescue.  In other words, they are contributing through active participation in saving themselves, you are there to ASSIST them, not to do it for them.  Once they are on land (metaphorically speaking) and breathing, your job is done.  It is up to them to move forward from this point: they can choose to learn to swim or to stay away from deep water or to wear a life preserver when in the water.  They need to take responsibility for their choices and decisions moving forward.  

Rescue those who need your help and are willing to help themselves. By doing so you will meet the needs of your Rescuer by being of help/service to others in a time of crisis.  At the same time, you will be appreciated by those you rescue because you're giving them the opportunity to choose to become empowered by taking responsibility for their own decisions and choices moving forward.

As always, the choice is yours.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Just Ask

"The answer will always be 'no' unless you ask"

Why is it people have such a difficult time asking for what they want?  Is it really because they believe the answer will be 'no' or is it, perhaps, because they fear the answer may actually be 'yes'?

Remember when you were a kid, you had no problem asking for what you wanted.  It didn't mean you always got it, but you asked (and sometimes pleaded, bargained or begged) fearlessly; hopefully; and with the belief that somehow the answer would be 'yes'.  What happened to that child?  When did you decide that asking for what you want was a bad idea?  If you were to know, at what point did you decide that there was no sense in asking because the answer is always going to be 'no'?

When I was in corporate, I was always amazed at the number of colleagues who wouldn't ask their boss for what they needed.  Whether it was help on a project, more training, flex hours, a raise, a promotion, you name it, they wouldn't ask.  You see, they had already decided the boss would say 'no' to their request so in their mind, there was no point in even asking. At the same time they were resentful of some of their colleagues, who, in their eyes, the boss favored by giving their colleagues all kinds of opportunities while they alone continued to struggle in silence.

One of the key differences though, was not a matter of favoritism, but one of asking and knowing how to ask.  It's not just about asking for what you want, it's about being able to see the bigger picture; being able to fully grasp how what you are asking for will not only benefit you but others as well.  It's about asking in a way that will ensure you will be heard and understood.   It doesn't matter if you are asking the boss for the opportunity to take a training course or if you are asking your kids to help out around the house; how you ask is as important as what you are asking for because others need to be able to relate how your ask is not only for your benefit but for the greater good of all.

Of course, this applies only when you actually want the answer to be 'yes'.  There are times when individuals actually don't ask because they are afraid the answer will be yes.  They are conflicted; part of them wants the answer to be yes, yet part of them fears what will happen if the answer is yes.  I know, it seems strange and perhaps a hard concept to really wrap your mind around, however, there are individuals who rather blame the boss/friend/family member for saying 'no' without ever asking them than run the risk of asking and getting a yes.

How is this possible?  Why on earth would they do it?  Well, it's a self-sabotage behavior they created at some point in their life to keep them safe. Safe in this case means things remain the same.  The problem with always being safe is if nothing changes then you are stuck!  Let me use the opportunity to take a training course as an example.

For someone who really wants to take the course is willing to ask, they are going to ensure they are fully prepared before asking.  They willingly share the details of the training, demonstrate how it fits into their job, the department, the company.  In other words, why taking this training course would be a win-win.

For someone who is conflicted, they are either not going to ask and bemoan the fact they never get the opportunities others do or they will ask in a way that will guarantee the answer will be no.  Either way the end result ensures they are 'safe' because they will not be put in a position of having to take the training.  After all, what if, they take the training and it increases their workload?  What if, they take the training and are not able to implement what they have learned?  What if, they take the training and are unable to grasp it? " What if...."  In their minds the 'what ifs' are risks they are unwilling to take, it is safer not to take the training than run the risk of taking it and making things worse for themselves.  Yet the problem is, by not taking the training they are missing an opportunity to learn and grow which may in turn limit their ability to move up through the company or to act on other opportunities simply because their fear of 'what if' has them completely stuck.

Most people need to learn how to ask for what they want.  Asking takes a lot of the drama, angst, resentment and fear out of our lives.  It creates healthier relationships both at work and at home.  Asking for what we want takes out the need for others attempt to read our minds.  Clarity, transparency, open communication with the intention of a win-win scenario makes for a happier, more harmonious and productive relationships both at the office and at home.  

While you may not always get a 'yes' to your every request, if you never ask you are guaranteed the answer will always be no.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain if you Just Ask!