Saturday, April 9, 2011

Helping vs Enabling (vs being taken advantage of)

Ok, so I just had someone come up to me and ask if they could use my phone. Not my cell phone, but my work phone. "Sure," I said... actually I said, "esta bien." Interestingly, I wanted to say, "daijoubu desu," but I didn't. So, then the person hands me a phone number, puts the receiver to their ear, and waits motions for me to dial the number. WHY DID I DO IT?!

I did it because I wasn't sure if this was in the enabling category or the helping category. I mean, what if she wasn't physically able to dial the number... OK, I'm pretty sure (99%) she could. I'm pretty sure I just got taken advantage of and treated like the hired help of the Nouvuea Riche. Besides, even if this person didn't know how, isn't it better to teacher her how to fish and all that jazz? I mean, isn't that why we (librarians) find people the resources but don't write their paper for them?

How does one tell if they are helping versus enabling? Also, is it sometimes better to simply enable than to go through the hassle of teaching? I realize this is situationally dependent, but there should be a GENERAL rule of thumb, right?

Well, here's my best answer. Usually, it's easier and faster to just to the stuff for them. However, this can set a bad precedent. Pretending like you are incapable of what they want you to do, either mentally or physically, could be fun, but the potential for insult is high. Taking the time to teach them can be frustrating and actually provide NO results whatsoever. So, just do it for them and hope it won't be a recurring thing. If it gets to be a common event, then teach. I know it sounds backwards, but it's just the smart thing to do.