Author Topic: How to deal with overly helpful people  (Read 3930 times)

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tasryn

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How to deal with overly helpful people
« on: January 09, 2013, 06:43:25 AM »
Hey Guys
Quick question on how to deal with overly helpful in laws. What happened yesterday is a classic example of the behavior from them that drives me batty. FIL comes over to drop off a tool that was ours that he had borrowed a long time ago and never returned. My husband is working on tiling our kitchen floor and there were two tiles he hadn't yet done. Knowing FIL is a perfectionist and will comment on it, I tell him that DH needs a special tool to cut them diagonally. I never mentioned needing help sourcing the tool and indeed we had already made plans to source the tool on our own. We also didn't need the tool until Friday as my husband is only tiling on the weekends. A few hours later MIL calls and says that they sourced the tool to cut diagonally and would bring it over the next day (FIL had a two hour coffee break at my house Monday and I knew if they came over Tuesday it will be another two hour coffee break and I really like my space). In addition, my in laws have already made plans to come over Friday to baby sit for us so why they needed to make 3 trips in one week is beyond me.

What drives me nuts is that the in laws (as nice as they are to want to help) never ask if they need the help-they just do and the usually create a big mess. As it happens, the tool we needed was one that cut an L shape (I misspoke) so they were bringing over the wrong tool anyway. They just source the tool without confirming what we need, when we need it (i.e. they could have asked whether they could bring it over on Friday or did we need it earlier) and they just inform me they are coming "sometime Tuesday" without asking me if it's convenient for me. Also, sometime Tuesday could be anytime between 9 am and 5 pm-they never think they need to inform me when they are coming.

I do know I need to push back and I did. As it happens DH sourced the tool on his own so we just said "Thanks but we don't need the help" but what I am trying to deal with is how infuriated I get every time this happens. I feel like the bad person all the time for being annoyed at the prospect of help but somehow I always end up feeling walked on. Am I being over sensitive? Would you be annoyed in the same circumstance? Any thoughts on how to deal with this?

Redsoil

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2013, 06:53:40 AM »
Maybe sit down with your husband and work out the best approach to dealing with "drop-in" visits in the long term - perhaps he could speak with them about it not always being convenient, and it would be better of they call first, as you're often busy with other things.

However, for this instance, simply phone them and say husband has sourced the tool himself, and "actually, Tuesday isn't a good day for visitors, but we're looking forward to catching up on Friday!"
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mrkitty

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2013, 06:59:52 AM »
I feel I can relate somewhat to what you're going through, tasryn. I, too, have an overly "helpful" in-law in my BIL (my sister's husband).

On the one hand, you know how they are. They want to be part of your life. They want to help. They can also be a little bit overbearing. They can be bossy. They have all the answers. Except, their advice is usually the wrong advice - because they only half-listen to the problem and jump to conclusions. (At least in my BIL's case). You don't want to alienate them. You don't want them to feel unwelcome...and you don't want them to get all PA on you - because you know they really are - because if you tell them too many times that their help isn't needed, they'll go away and pout and make life that much more difficult for you.

But the thing is, it's impossible to control what other people think, feel, or do. Or how they react. All you can do is control how you interact/react to them.

So, stop torturing yourself. Stop second-guessing what they're going to say or do.

"Knowing FIL is a perfectionist and will comment on it, I tell him that DH needs a special tool to cut them diagonally. I never mentioned needing help sourcing the tool and indeed we had already made plans to source the tool on our own." 

Don't guess what your FIL is going to say. You could be wrong. In your post, you mentioned that you proactively mentioned that your DH needs a special tool - then it turned out you mis-spoke and they ended up supplying you with the wrong one. So, they wasted their time, you got something you didn't need and can't use, and NOW you are in the awkward position of having to tell them all of this. (I imagine)

So, do yourself (and them!) a favor....don't volunteer that information. Tell them you've got the situation under control and DH will be finished with the project soon. Then, if they get critical because this, that or the other thing isn't up to their standards, this forum offers a lot of good techniques on deflecting the criticism - like beandipping, complete silence or using the "what an interesting assumption" phrase.

But I think the best way to handle it is to avoid the situation in the first place, if you can. Try to limit the information you give the in-laws about projects or other things that you believe they might be critical about. I know how it is. I don't think you're being too sensitive, but I do think you unintentionally give them the impression that their advice or help is both welcome and needed, and you do that partially because you think you know what they're going to say.

I say try to break that habit and give them the benefit of the doubt. They can be as critical as they want to be - it's still your house, your life, your business. Using the above techniques, over time, might help them break THEIR habit.

I'm so sorry you're going through this - I understand how annoying it is. I hope this helps!  :D
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Margo

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2013, 07:26:46 AM »
I think MrKitty's advice is good. In the tiling example, for instance, if FIL *had* commented, you could respond by saying "Yes,I know. It isn't finished yet. Wait until you see it once we're done!"

If you know that they are prone to spontaneous "helping" you may be able deflect that in a non-specific way.

e.g. - you see FIL looking at tiles, or he makes a comment about them. you respond "I see you noticed that we haven't quite finished the tiling job. DH is doing such a great job, and I know he's really enjoying doing everything himself without any help from anyone [except me] - it makes us feel it's really our own achievement!. We're looking forward to inviting you round to admire it once we've finished the job"

This hopefully lets him know that it isn't that you haven't finished it because you don't have the right tools / enough time / correct skills / don't are about the standard,it also explicitly tells him that you actively want to do it yourselves. If he then shows up with the tool or other 'help' you can politely turn it down.

You can also treat the help as an offer, not a done deal.

"It's nice of you to offer to give us the tool, but we don't need it. We / DH had already got the tool he needed"

You can do the same if they turn up with other items, or show up planning to do X or Y job. Treat it as an *offer* of help, or an *offer* to give/lend you the item.

If this is a very comon thing I also think it would be OK for you to start to sugegst that they ask first, so

"It's nice of you to offer to give us the tool, but we don't need it. We / DH had already got the tool he needed. I hope you didn't go and buy one specially - it would be better if you let us know before you do something like this -we do appreciate that you want to help us, but it makes us feel uncomfortable if you offer/ give us things we don't need" That way, you are acknowledging the well-meaning motive but also making it clear that their help isn't actually helping.

bopper

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2013, 09:11:36 AM »
Quote
Knowing FIL is a perfectionist and will comment on it, I tell him that DH needs a special tool to cut them diagonally.

Here is your problem. Don't say stuff like this.  Because it seems to them like a hint.

MindsEye

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2013, 11:45:38 AM »
A question and a slightly different perspective...

Is this sort of "helpfulness" a recent occurrence? Are your in-laws are recently retired? If so, I would say that it sounds like they are bored and are grasping at anything to do to fill the time.

When my FIL retired, he got really overly helpful like this for a while.  Fortunately that ended when he found a hobby!

If boredom if the issue underlying their overly helpfulness, maybe you could suggest other ways that they could direct their energies?


TootsNYC

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2013, 12:09:52 PM »
...what I am trying to deal with is how infuriated I get every time this happens. I feel like the bad person all the time for being annoyed at the prospect of help but somehow I always end up feeling walked on. Am I being over sensitive? Would you be annoyed in the same circumstance? Any thoughts on how to deal with this?

Try not to feel annoyed. Try to see it as funny.

You can also try to stop them from doing this, but that will take a more concerted effort.

Your DH will need to sit down (with you there) and tell them both that he doesn't like it when they do this, and please would they stop. That he recognizes the underlying message they WANT to send ("we love you and we want to support you and feel involved in your lives"), and that they should feel confident that this message is already believed; there's no need to *keep* sending it.
   But that the message he sometimes hears is "we don't think you can do it yourself" or "we don't want you to have any part of your life that we're *not* involved in." And that he finds that he doesn't want to tell them about what's going on, which means less connection.
   And that he'll remind them of this conversation when the occasion arises. They shouldn't think it means he doesn't love or appreciate them--just that they're doing something he's asked them to stop.

And when they announce, "we'll come over," you say, "Please don't come by unless it's after 5pm" or "oh, not today--I'm going to be busy." Push back a little bit.

And stop taking it personally--which is totally internal, not always easy to do, but very, very powerful.

Lynn2000

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2013, 12:25:42 PM »
I do know I need to push back and I did. As it happens DH sourced the tool on his own so we just said "Thanks but we don't need the help" but what I am trying to deal with is how infuriated I get every time this happens. I feel like the bad person all the time for being annoyed at the prospect of help but somehow I always end up feeling walked on. Am I being over sensitive? Would you be annoyed in the same circumstance? Any thoughts on how to deal with this?

mrkitty's advice is a great start. Stop volunteering any information that could be interpreted as a complaint or a wish for something, because that will just give them ideas about what they can do for you. If this means you become very "dull" and have little to say about your current activities, so be it. Obviously they can't handle the information you're giving them wisely.

Also, I think if you keep pushing back each time, you will find that it gets easier and less infuriating. It may even become automatic. "We'll drop by Tuesday to bring you that." "Oh, sorry, Tuesday's not good for me. How about Friday after 3pm?" If you have trouble thinking on your feet (like I do), you could come up with an automatic response that buys you time. Like, "I'm not sure if that time works. Let me check my calendar/talk to DH and get back to you."

My dad likes to be "helpful" and we have to watch what we say around him, because a lot of the time he will just show up with something he thinks will help, without double-checking. Sometimes he will show up with three different things, that could each solve the problem, even though no sane person would actually own/use all three. I will admit here that sometimes I still feel bad turning him down; but I try not to show it to him. I just blithely say, "Oh, I'll take this one thing, thanks!" or "Actually I got some of my own and don't need any more, but thanks!" or "Actually I changed my mind and don't need them, thanks!" and I refuse to accept the items (or the ones I really don't want). Sometimes he gets this look on his face, slightly confused and disappointed, and of course I don't like that; but he's the one who chose to bring me stuff without checking first, so that's the risk he takes, that he'll get stuck with stuff he has zero use for because I don't want it. I recognize it's his way of showing that he cares about me. But, that doesn't mean I have to get stuck with stuff I don't want.
~Lynn2000

Hmmmmm

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2013, 12:32:59 PM »
If you know they are prone to jump in and offer help, cut them off before they can.

"Yeah, the floor looks great.  DH is finishing on Saturday.  He's geting a tool from a friend to cut the last two tiles."

As others have said, learn to repeat the phrase "Thanks for the offer, but...".

And learn to deflect their timing and take control of the relationship.

MIL:  I made a batch of soup, I'll drop some off to you tomorrow.
You:  Thanks, would love the soup, but I'm not sure of my schedule tomorrow.  I'll call you tomorrow when I'm out and see if it is a good time to stop by. 

MIL: We'll come babysit Friday so you guys can go out.
You:  Thanks, but we've already decide we want to have a quiet Friday night at home since DH spent so much time last weekend on the floor.  How about Sunday afternoon though? 

BeagleMommy

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2013, 02:33:04 PM »
My FIL used to do this.  If we said "We're thinking about painting the living room" he would show up with a gallon of paint (not in a shade I wanted) and rollers.  The problem was he didn't want to do the stuff he just wanted to buy the supplies.  We stopped saying anything about projects we were considering.

xanne

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2013, 10:54:06 AM »
I really try to limit what is said to my FIL about things concerning the house.  Since in his mind my husband is somewhere around 8 years old.  DH mentioned that he wanted to get some more stone for the driveway.  Came home from work one day and there were piles of stone waiting to be raked out (they blocked the driveway, so it had to be done NOW) and a bill for the stone, not the kind DH wanted.  FIL notices some cracks in the retaining wall outside of the basement, come home, wall is gone, large bill for lumber for forms and cement - had the money targeted for a vacation.  Lessons learned.  I put my hand through the bathroom wall - it gave way when I leaned on it.  ILs were coming to visit the next week.  DH and I went out into the garage and threw away all of the extra tile left over so FIL wouldn't "fix" what needed to be torn down and redone.  FIL's first words "where are the extra tiles, I can fix that", but by them we had contracted to have the work done professionally.  I hate to have to watch what is said in casual conversation, but FIL doesn't take hints.  When visiting he gets bored and "does stuff" and then gives us the bill.  As a result, we find projects for him to do, that way we can control how much money is spent, and there are no surprises.  The comment about someones FIL showing up with a random gallon of paint really hit home.  FIL was bored and decided that he was going to paint the lines in the dining room paneling green, since the paneling was painted off-while, fortunately MIL stopped him, or I would have totally freaked.

stitchygreyanonymouse

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2013, 11:03:49 AM »
"FIL, I appreciate that you want to help, but the next time you try billing us for something we didnít ask you to take care of, we will not pay. The next time you do a project that we havenít asked you to do explicitly, we will have to ask you to pay the costs of changing it from what you did to how we planned to have it done." Then follow through.

mrkitty

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2013, 11:40:32 AM »
I really try to limit what is said to my FIL about things concerning the house.  Since in his mind my husband is somewhere around 8 years old.  DH mentioned that he wanted to get some more stone for the driveway.  Came home from work one day and there were piles of stone waiting to be raked out (they blocked the driveway, so it had to be done NOW) and a bill for the stone, not the kind DH wanted.  FIL notices some cracks in the retaining wall outside of the basement, come home, wall is gone, large bill for lumber for forms and cement - had the money targeted for a vacation.  Lessons learned.  I put my hand through the bathroom wall - it gave way when I leaned on it.  ILs were coming to visit the next week.  DH and I went out into the garage and threw away all of the extra tile left over so FIL wouldn't "fix" what needed to be torn down and redone.  FIL's first words "where are the extra tiles, I can fix that", but by them we had contracted to have the work done professionally.  I hate to have to watch what is said in casual conversation, but FIL doesn't take hints.  When visiting he gets bored and "does stuff" and then gives us the bill.  As a result, we find projects for him to do, that way we can control how much money is spent, and there are no surprises.  The comment about someones FIL showing up with a random gallon of paint really hit home.  FIL was bored and decided that he was going to paint the lines in the dining room paneling green, since the paneling was painted off-while, fortunately MIL stopped him, or I would have totally freaked.


Wait. Wait. Wait. What?!

Your FIL comes over, sometimes uninvited (and you're unaware at the time, not even home), does work on your house or property without your knowledge or permission (usually something different than what you wanted) and then has the nerve to CHARGE you for it?!

Oh, no, no, no, no. This must be stopped. NOW.

You and DH need to sit down with your FIL and lay down the law. You can't vandalize (yes, I said it. That's what it is, really) someone's private property and then SEND THEM A BILL on top of it!

It doesn't matter how well-intentioned your FIL is, or whether you think it will cause tension. His reaction is out of your control. He needs to find another hobby or get a job, or do SOMETHING other than come over and mess up your property. You can be very polite but very firm at the same time.

If he wants to pout or give you the silent treatment or do anything PA, let him. You need to train him not to do things on your property against your will. This must stop now. Eventually, he will stop doing this but you must be very consistent as in every.single.time. AND you must inform him that starting right now, if he does anything to your property without your express permission, not only will you NOT pay him, but you will charge HIM to undo or remove what he did. And follow through.

OH, this makes me so mad. I'm so sorry you're going through this, but you can't go on like this. {HUGS}
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mrkitty

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2013, 11:44:53 AM »
I can almost guarantee you that the next time you refuse to pay him for "work" that he had ordered or done on your "behalf" without your knowledge or permission, it will stop. DON'T PAY HIM. He has no right to do anything to your property or to hire someone else to do it.  >:( >:( >:(
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tasryn

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Re: How to deal with overly helpful people
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2013, 09:18:59 AM »
Wow. Firstly as the OP thank you for all your responses. I have to say some of you folks have it WAY worse than me. My ILs however did feel that our living room needed to be carpeted (more padding for our baby daughter when she starts to walk) and so therefore were going to treat us. However knowing my husband would say no (he wanted linoleum in the living room because we have a dog and also babies can be pretty messy too and at least with lino you can mop up the mess) so they said they were going to keep the carpeting a secret from him. As a surprise to him, they were going to take me shopping for new carpeting without my husband so he would get no input and then they were going to get my husband's uncle to put in the carpet while we were on vacation as a surprise for him when he returned. This was going to be our Christmas gift. When I refused as I don't keep secrets from my husband they withdrew their offer. We recently put down lino on our living room and paid for it ourselves-they didn't want to gift us anything unless they had total control of what went in per their specification. They also have planted flowers in our garden that we didn't choose and I don't like and even paid for our groceries (we were going through some money troubles but not so dire we couldn't afford food) and the groceries included items I either hated or was allergic to.

I just don't get why people insist on involving themselves in other people's lives when the help isn't wanted or appreciated? If you want to help so badly, go to a soup kitchen. There are people there who actually would appreciate the help and desperately need it. Anyway, thanks for all your advice and help. It really helped!