So-Not-Helpful Fixers and their Malcommendations

Bless them, there are a lot of people out there who want to help. Or rather, there are a lot of people out there who are helpful, and some who want to Give Help.

The latter sort want to give “those people” or “the ones with your kind of special needs” the benefit of their expertise. They’re “fixers” of the less-useful ilk, the sort who get their ego-fluffing from helping people, regardless of whether or not the person needs help, or wants help, or benefits from the sort of help they have to offer. The main point is that they are nobly out there graciously bestowing The Needy with the largess of their wisdom, even when their body of knowledge is riddled with “malcommendations”.

These helpful fixers may be in official helping professions, or may be volunteers doing charity work. They may be staff members in self-imposed accessory roles as unofficial aides, the sort that used to be called “busybodies,” except now they are actual employees that have taken it upon themselves to Give Help in ways far beyond the actual capacities of their job. They may be concerned citizens, or parents, or church laity and Sunday-school teachers, or scouting troop leaders or a number of other roles.

Often these do-gooders have read a few biased articles and mistaken the material for an in-depth, balanced understanding. They may take the partial knowledge of one person’s situation and then consider it to be representative and extrapolate it to all others.

A lot of people do volunteer work simply because it needs doing and they can do it, and they have an interest in the organisation or the work itself or in that particular segment of the community. That’s doing volunteer work for your own gratification because you know others will benefit from it. Sometimes they get some positive feedback from those whom the work benefits, and sometimes they don’t. Although people like to be recognised for their work and what they bring to the effort as an individual, the recognition is not the prime motivating factor.

You can tell that you’re running into the lousy end of helpers when the need for social recognition outweighs and over-rules the negative feedback from the recipients. You can tell when they lose the “take it or leave it” perspective and insist that what you need is what they have to offer. Protesting the inappropriateness of their pet form of aid is often useless; you get condescending responses about how they are “specially” qualified, and how you are being unappreciative, and cannot know what is best for you simply because you are of the recipient class.

Such dread Helpers and Fixers want not just the ego-boost and recognition; they want status, and will even sometimes create their own imaginary status markers as proof of why others should recognise their special knowledge and munificent public service. At worst they are narcissistic, at best, merely clueless.

One of the oddest things I have run into with such types is not just the insistence that their pet solution is what is needed, but that any solution they have heard of should be helpful and tried. The advice is coming from them and they want what’s best for you, therefor it’s automatically good advice. I have at times been left so amazed that someone could suggest doing something so far off base with my needs, so profoundly inappropriate, that I was all but sputtering. It wasn’t just an off-target bit of advice, an unhelpful recommendation. It was, I decided later, a malcommendation, a bad recommendation (usually inadvertent) but still bad advice nonetheless.

I thought I had run into the most useless of advice then, but later on I was treated to something even more amazing. This was a masterpiece of cognitive dissonance, what I’ve since called the autohistorical malcommendation: a bad recommendation given despite someone’s own previous bad experience with it.

The autohistorical malcommendation is truly a great foolishness, but is seen more often than anyone cares to count. It can be found in bureaucratic realms, including special education. When faced with a problem that is not neatly resolved by the local standard of treatment, people will throw any old method into the mix, a shotgun approach to practice.

“Well, this never worked when any of us tried it, but give it a go and see if it helps you.”

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to mean well. Good intentions plus bad results still equals … bad results.

No thanks.

No, I’m not really thanking you; I don’t want to play, “Let’s pretend to deny how much we want to receive thanks by voicing self-effacing modesty thrice over.”

I mean, No thanks. No. I don’t want it. It won’t help.

No. I don’t want that other sure-fire solution, either. Yes, I’m sure. I don’t care what magazine you read it in, or that it’s what your brother’s boss’s son needed. Go away. Shoo! Be off with thee!

5 Comments

  1. 3 December 2011 at 3:46

    […] let us not forget the malcommendations, a subject of such amazing WhatTheFuckery that it deserved its own post. To […]

  2. Maggie said,

    4 March 2008 at 20:31

    The one that really burns my ass are the do-gooder 12-steppers who think they have to preach “abstinence of everything” like it is the new cure for whatever ails you. Don’t get me wrong, I have benefitted enormously in my life from 12-step meetings, but I have a girlfriend from those days who constantly reminds me that “no medication is good”. She does not believe in taking a pill for anything and loves to preach that everything is related to your “issues”. Try having Fibromyalgia and being around that all too often! I don’t mind people telling me their beliefs, but when I am made to feel “less than” by these do-gooders, it makes my blood boil and the steam starts coming out my nose and ears! When I am subjected to these narrow-minded people, I can only think “God save us from the 12 steps”!

  3. 2 March 2008 at 11:12

    “… how you are being unappreciative, and cannot know what is best for you simply because you are of the recipient class.”

    Basically, this is how any disability group is treated in Finland.

  4. dkmnow said,

    1 March 2008 at 20:12

    “Well, I’d think my fifty years of training and experience would count for something.” —sullen retort from an unnamed “helping professional” who couldn’t recognize autism when it was “presenting” right in his face.

    :-p

  5. 1 March 2008 at 12:35

    Such dread Helpers and Fixers want not just the ego-boost and recognition; they want status, and will even sometimes create their own imaginary status markers as proof of why others should recognise their special knowledge and munificent public service. At worst they are narcissistic, at best, merely clueless.

    Ohhhhhhh, that’s it a nut shell, an attitude and mindset I have to grapple with on a regular basis, an excellent summation.


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