Ben Franklin Effect

How many times you have felt bad because you needed to ask for help? When you were out of cash, needed help at school or simply needed support in your life? But then have you actually asked for help or you just felt bad about even thinking about it? Why are we scared to ask for help? Is it our pride? Do we think we are better, so we shouldn’t show our weakness or are we ashamed of our mistakes or disabilities? Do we think that we don’t deserve somebody’s good word, nice gesture or just a simple smile and saying ‘it will be alright!’?

wow.. so many questions written and twice as much in my head. Why? Because it is so difficult to believe that help comes with nothing in exchange or maybe I just prefer to work on everything on my own. My achievements, my problems and my struggles. Probably mixture of both.

But how is it with helping in the end? Let’s focus on us helping others. Why do we do that? There are multiple reasons. One of them claims that it is to make ourselves feel better. The feeling of satisfaction from the fact that our actions contributed to somebody’s happiness and fulfillment. The fact that we played a small role in somebody’s movie makes us feeling better with ourselves, doesn’t it? Are we being egoists? Charles Dickens says “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” I remember when I was around 10/11 years old on holiday with my Parents and Grandparents in Hungary. There was a homeless Man that had his own life stored on the huge wheelbarrows. His very, let’s be diplomatic, intense smell was recognizable from far away. You haven’t seen him, but you already knew he was there. Mix of mold, humid, sweat and of course well known Hungarian spirits (I remember until today our favorite invented sentence, that kept us laughing all holiday – Eine kleine Berbeluche – the ones that know Polish old slang will know what I mean!), really long hair and probably full of lice… Despite that… as a kid, I just felt the internal need to help him. Back then having full pocket of Forints that had no value, but compared to PLN seemed so much more (obviously I had vague idea about the currency exchange). I preferred to spend my last coins to give him or to go with my Parents to do shopping for him, rather than going for ice cream. Why? My Parents didn’t tell me to do that. They would rather have me getting something for myself and give this Man some money themselves, but I was so stubborn – it was supposed to be from me! Every afternoon I was looking for him somewhere in the city (he was changing his places) to say hello, give him some money and then just see the smile on his face. From the perspective I see this was very innocent gesture. I didn’t expect anything in return – just happiness. It made me feel better. Does it make me altruist who turned into egoist or the other way round?

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Another reason why we help people. Because we like them or maybe… we want them to like us? Ben Franklin once said: ‘He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.’ So does it mean we ask others for help to make them like us more or do they help us cause the fact they helped us once with no obligations will make them closer to us? Have you never had this good feeling when you helped someone and they were grateful that you even ask them if they need more help, as you have this genuine impulse to go further? I am sure you had it. Why? The scientists claim that subconsciously we couldn’t accept the fact that we have helped someone we don’t like, so… our brain simply assumes we like them. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But think about it. Again we are coming back to this feeling of fulfillment, being proud that our knowledge, experience or abilities have been useful for someone else. Are you the one asking for help though? – then you can only gain some new friends or just strategically decrease the amount of your foes! There might be a strategy in it. When people feel like they did something good for you, they expect you to like them and to be thankful. Of course we are.

Something that recently made me cry.. – and let’s face it I almost don’t cry – was the scene from the reportage in the polish tv. The reporter was asking people on how much money would mean ‘a lot’ for them. The replies were various – from 5k PLN to 1m PLN, but there was this one reply that made my heart melted – older Lady said, that for her 2k PLN (around 500 EUR) is a lot, as she would be able to do good shopping, would afford more expensive ham and coffee. The reporter has made a big shopping for her and left me in tears. Small thing, most of us would afford to do such gesture and I really want to believe most of us does. It happened to me back in Poland – doing shopping with my Mum for few people as they were struggling and we just couldn’t pass them indifferently. The thing is that I used to live in Poland 2,5 years ago… Time to change it – goal for the next week, help somebody for no reason here. Just because. Just because I want to and just because I can. And Ben Franklin effect definitely does not matter a thing to me here. Would I benefit from that? Yes. I will feel better with myself.

What’s the conclusions for today? Don’t be scared to ask for help – people will do it with pleasure and moreover, this will make them closer to you with the feeling that they care about you and want to support you further. You will show them that you respect them and admire in a way. Or treat it as your strategy – maybe you will win over the people that looked at you disapprovingly? One is sure – Ben Franklin would be proud!

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