Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To love is to give?

Recently I have been in situations where I have thought: why do we not want to give people what they say they want to receive? I am not talking about the times when they are asking for something that we simply do not want to give, I'm talking about when they ask for A and we'll give them B.

This week I spoke to my sister about a present for my aunt and uncle who are both turning 70 this year. On their wish list were mentioned blankets, pillows and red wine. So my sister suggested that we give them a fancy wine cooler. I never saw them using a wine cooler (which could mean that they don't have one) and a wine cooler could be a fantastic. But they did mention that they fancy red wine and I would rarely use a wine cooler for red wine; it could indicate that they don't really need a wine cooler.

So, why did my sister not want to give them the blankets when that's what they say they want?
I usually return the presents I get from my sister, since she is very good at spotting what I absolutely do not need.
Some people simply enjoy finding a special present and believe it to be more valuable to come up with their own ideas than to give something that's useful or requested. Based on this, if I gave my sister something from her wish list, it would be less valuable to her than than something I came up with myself.

A second example is when we ask for help.

I sometimes ask my stepdad to help to fixing things in my apartment. Often it is because two hands are not always enough.

If my mum comes along, she wants to help cleaning. I usually tell her that if would be more useful if she would walk the dog, because he always wants to be center of attention which can be pretty disturbing. Instead of walking the dog, she'll start cleaning somewhere and every second minute asking for my opinion on something, which disturbs the work I'm doing with my step dad.

I've seen similar issues at work - I'll ask for two numbers and I'll get a graphic representation of something almost answering my question.

A third example occurred this week. I asked a friend for some specific feedback on my behavior. He answered, "my feedback would say more about me than about you... but please call me anytime you are lonely".

My issue was that I sometimes feel lonely which I don't like. This feeling of being lonely comes when I'm thinking, "I'm always the one to call my friends and they don't call me."

So, I thought that I could either a) change my wants for contact with other people or b) make new friends. Most of my friends have kids and families and it feels like "they do not need me" or they do not want the same amount of contact as I do (maybe I could use the exercise from Mark on needy or needed). So, I have tried to meet more single people, believing they might be more available than couples and families.

But it seems as though I have the same issue in many of my new relationships; I call them more often than they call me. I would like to have more equal relationships, so I would like some suggestions on how I could behave differently.

So why would my friend rather comfort me when I feel lonely than help me with feedback that could keep me from being lonely? (Not to mention that he could try to be the one calling me instead of me calling him...)

When people give you something different than what you've asked for, there are different ways to respond, for example, asking again. When I asked my friend again he did try to give me the feedback I wanted.

But the question it raised for me was: How often do I ask again? And what are my reasons for doing or not doing this?

I have a strong belief that a big part of loving someone is to help them getting what they want for themselves. But how do I live this? Do I always ask them what they want? Do I try to guess based on their previous behavior? Do I base it on what I would want for myself?

What do you do? Why?

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