What do you want from me?

The question came over as casually as any other, but it was a loaded one. “Why are you being nice to me?” she asked.

“I’m nice to everyone,” I replied. It was the truth. I am.

But her real question was, “What will you eventually want from me for this favor?” I understood that is what she was asking, but kinda ignored it. The truth is I am nice to everybody. I really am. With no expectation of anything in return.


We are all on this rock together. What affects you, affects me. A very long time ago, I decided that what I wanted most from life was to be part of a community of civility and cooperation, where we all need to feel important and valued. Shouldn’t that be enough? If that community didn’t exist, I was going to make it. It’s a run uphill on a gravel road in bare feet almost every day.

I wasn’t going to write this post as it sounded a bit like a whine, but then read this from Margie Clayman today and this from Neil Kramer yesterday. Take a few minutes to read them; I’ll wait.

When I worked in Human Resources, I would have to remind myself that only about 10% of the people I helped would be grateful or even acknowledge that I had done anything for them. Most would even accuse me of being manipulative in favor of the company I worked for. Some even stick with me today more than fifteen years later, their comments were that vicious.

But it was the 10% that kept my faith in the overall goodness of people.

A more level-headed friend of mine reminded me during a more recent crisis of faith that even really awesome, highly-paid baseball players only bat 300. Most people, he said, belong to the 700 Club. You can’t structure a life built around them but instead, shoot to work with the 300.

I started blogging as a dog years back partly to be able to have a voice that was not beholding to anyone, including family or clients. What I later realized was that I wanted to also be that person for whom nobody would ever feel they owed me for anything I willingly did for them just because it was the nice thing to do. I am finding it hard to convince people this need is genuine. No stings, ever.

So now all this social media, community and favors we do for people is just supposed to be for favors we can ask for later? I think that is sad. I hear parents claim all the time that their kids “owe” them tuition or care for them in their later years and I also find that very, very sad. I think we should all pay things forward.

But the sad irony is that I have a hard time believing anyone doing anything for me will not want something in return. I know what motivates me and if there is me out here, there are probably others.

Make sense? I didn’t think so and I understand your suspicion. It’s ok, I’m patient.


13 Replies to “What do you want from me?”

  1. I’d be happy to do something for you without expecting anything in return, as long as it doesn’t involve washing second story windows as I’m afraid of heights. Sounds rather sappy these days, but I find the joy in helping is its own reward.

  2. I can only tell you what people have been telling me after my post — there are many different communities out there, and if we join one primarily focused on business or “getting ahead” than it isn’t surprising that you are going to find certain personality types there. There are others that focus more on the community, and I guess the key is much like in real life — finding the right group to hang out with at the playground.

  3. Not going to, I’m too old to care what others think. I am not too old to be unaffected by the pervasive lack of trust and sincerity… sometimes, the 90%, 700 Club wins the battle in my head.. but just for a little bit…

  4. I could really use a Dutch apple pie! My luck, though is it would be cooling on a second story window sill 🙂 I’ve been accused of being sappy and Pollyanna.. “the world doesn’t work that way!” folks scream at me… it’s ok; I’m only around for less than a century.. I think the world is flexible enough to have me bang around in a clueless state for that long.

  5. “Joining a community” even sounds more strategic than I ever care to get. I’m just strolling along and hoping some people may want to be going the same direction I am, if even for a little while. All this social media is starting to sound like a badly-written business advice book… maybe if I just keep strolling along, the folks who are just walking along to pick my pockets will eventually give up when they realize I;m not wearing any pants 🙂

  6. Would you go so far as to say that you do nice things for people in the hope that they’ll do nice things for other people when they have the chance?

  7. Sure, I’d like to think that someone who does something kind has some collective effect on others’ ability to empathize with another. I’d apply the 10% rule to that level of hope, though 🙂

  8. it’s a tough line, isn’t it, RoofRoof? You do nice things for others and you know in your heart of hearts that you don’t expect a favor in return, but if you don’t get a thank you…if there’s no sign at all that the person even noticed, where does your motivation go?

    Does this mean that we just do nice things so we can get back some gratitude? It could be. I more think though (and hope) that I do nice things for people because I enjoy making people happy or making people feel like their situation has improved somehow. If you don’t acknowledge that I’ve done anything for you, I’m deprived of that simple joy, and it bums me out.

    So, where am I on that scale of batters? 🙂

    Great post!

  9. Firmly in the 300 Club 🙂

    I look at favors and such the same way I view Twitter. They are in the moment thoughts and deeds. I don’t have a “strategy” for any of this social media stuff other that to have a place where I can bark out. If people want to be next to me only because of the influence they think I have, that is their failing, not mine. I sometimes get accused of being taken advantage of, but I can only control my actions, not others’ reactions. It all ends up balancing out in the end.

    I don’t have a strategy for favors either. Just when something is the right thing to do and I;m in a position to help, it doesn’t seem right that I don’t.

    I get bummed when others don’t show some gratitude sometimes. I think that is natural. But I shrug it off quickly. That is the past and I can’t live there. Life is way too short as it is and I have a lot to do.

    People come and go in our lives; sometimes without little or no explanation. I think if we spend too much time and energy asking ourselves why they are in our lives, we miss out a lot on enjoying their company. They (or we) will eventually leave. Why waste a gift.

  10. I followed you because I think that you are very interesting and I like your posts. The Social Media world can be so weird. Sometimes I feel like I’m in highschool again. . .Will I be one of the COOL kids? And then I remember that I just don’t care. Keep up the good work, I enjoy reading your posts!!

Comments are closed.