Intended kindnesses may backfire

Caring, conscious people want to be helpful. However, what seems like helpful to the giver can show up as unhelpful to the receiver.

On a recent two-week trip with 14 strangers, we all got along. On the first day, one of my co-travelers asked if he could borrow anyone’s iPhone charger. I had an extra so said he could borrow it for the duration. As a precaution to facilitate the return of lost items, I put my label on all belongings, which includes my picture.

Close to the end of our trip, another well-meaning co-traveler returned one part of the charger to me, saying she found it in the room she shared with others, including the man who borrowed it. She said she saw my picture on it and wanted to make sure it got back to me.

I explained that I’d loaned it to our friend and he was to return it before we parted. I asked if she’d told him she’d returned this. She said no.

I didn’t see the borrower for many hours. When I did, I told him that the part had been returned to me. He said, “I’ve been tearing apart our room looking for it!”

The well-meaning pal had no idea of the angst and wasted time she caused by 1) not asking before taking it upon herself to return the item and 2) not communicating that she’d done so.

There were a number of similar instances of this behavior during the trip. She thought she was being helpful, but in fact she caused more work or angst for the person she was trying to help. When she did this to me several times, I didn’t say anything, as how do you tell someone their intended kindness was not only unwelcome, but caused more consternation? I will leave that to someone who knows her better and is the beneficiary/victim of her repeated “kindnesses.”