The Hard Facts: If You’re Humble, You’re a Helper

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“A new study shows that humble people are more likely to offer help than more arrogant types are. So if you’re in a tight spot, seek out people who don’t toot their own horns.” (“If You Need Help, Ask For a Humble Person”; 1/3/2012)

I guess this can be filed under obvious. Humble people don’t inflate their own importance, so they’re not the types to think they’re too good or too busy to lend others a hand. Arrogant people are more likely to feel like they can’t be bothered.

This study is funny, though, because it involved some self-reporting. People had to choose words, like humble or arrogant, and also say how likely they would be to help others. But would humble people describe themselves as humble? Aren’t they too, er, humble, for that? And wouldn’t arrogant people be so arrogant as to call themselves humble?

Self-reporting is a tricky little bastard.

But this knowledge could indeed come in handy. Say you’re someone who’d rather a modest friend than a braggy one. (Because who wants a braggy friend?) You might be able to pick out your potential bestie by asking for help. Or by taking note of who helps you when you don’t ask for it. Like when you’re trying to haul your 25-pound carry-on into an overhead bin. In these telling moments, some people stand and stare and some people say “Can I help you with that?” I know this to be true because I live it. Often.

Or maybe you’re trying to balance one too many coffee cups at Starbucks while you fumble for your keys (I’m picturing Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, here). The woman who reaches out and says “let me grab that for you”… Befriend her! Say thanks, and then make a self-deprecating joke about how you’re a bit scattered. This will show that you, too, aren’t all self-important and full of yourself.

Next stop: Friendsville.

See? That was easy.

Have you ever befriended someone because she reached out with a helping hand? Or have you showed off your awesome, modest self by helping someone else?

Friends in Boston: I’m reading from MWF Seeking BFF at the Brookline Booksmith tonight at 7 pm. I’d love to see you there. Also, I did my first morning show today on Fox 25 News. It was exciting–and I want to be best friends with the anchor. Go figure. Watch the clip!



Filed under The Search

6 responses to “The Hard Facts: If You’re Humble, You’re a Helper

  1. Of course I’m always helping people, but then I am awesome. And modest about it. Seriously, how do you self-report that? It’s not the kind of thing that most people would brag about. But of course, if I suspect my friends need me, I always lend a hand, take them dinner, offer to listen over a drink, etc.

    I can’t say that I’ve friended someone just because of this, but I do think it’s a GREAT quality to have in a friend. If I think back to some of the tougher times I’ve had, it’s always been my best friends who have jumped in to help without me even having to ask. That’s just what friends do.

  2. Just watched your interview and it was awesome! Makes you book sound so interesting to more than just a MWF. The interviewer seemed genuinely fascinated. I would definitely “friend” her.

  3. Recently I became good friends with a woman who helped me with a huge task I was responsible for at work. I found that her willingness to help me made it so much easier for me to let my guard down and be friendlier. I have a hard time letting people help me and it is much easier for me to give aide.

  4. “Self-reporting is a tricky little bastard.”

    Yes, it’s called the Dunning-Kroger effect (or close) and that’s worth an article too…how people can’t be objective about their own skills.

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