General Question

elijah's avatar

How long is someone allowed to hold a "good deed" over your head?

Asked by elijah (8652points) April 13th, 2009 from iPhone

Say someone does something nice for you, and you say thank you multiple times, and yet they keep bringing it up. Is the size (or monetary value) of the good deed directly proportionate to the length of time the person is able to remind you? How do you say you are tired of hearing about it without sounding ungrateful?
Keep in mind that the favor was offered freely, and unsolicited. Do you ever regret accepting a favor because you were made to look like a bad person?

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19 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

They should not be reminding you at all, ever, regardless of the size of the aid. If I were being plagued by such reminders, I think I would be sorely tempted to return the cash or the item, thank them for the loan, and ask if we can close the matter now.

For most, a good deed is well meant, I think, and yes, some people are hungry for credit. But for some people, the doing of a good deed is a game of one-upsmanship. And for some it is actually aggressive behavior, not even passive. Don’t be a victim.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

It’s not a good deed if you’re being made to feel beholden to that person for anything. I’d regret being in that position as the recipient, try to figure out if a repayment of sorts would get the giver off my back then have little to do with them in the future.

MrKnowItAll's avatar

People generally stop doing something when their actions stop producing the results they desire.

Jeruba's avatar

Not in my experience, @MrKnowItAll. Isn’t it true that behavior on a lean reinforcement schedule is the hardest to extinguish? I think it is commonly seen that if plan A fails, many people simply try plan A harder. Anyone who nags someone about anything is following this pattern.

It seems as if the goal of this peron’s behavior is self-fulfilling: the giver isn’t really looking for another thank-you but just for the pleasure of reminding her of the obligation. So the person is getting the desired results every time he or she brings it up.

Mr_M's avatar

The answer to your question really depends upon how much you think you may need a similar, whopping favor from that person again. If you think you WILL, then, I’m sorry to say, grin and bear it.

VS's avatar

I would slip them a $20. bill next time the subject is brought up, and just say “OK, can we call it even now??”

cak's avatar

I think it’s incredibly rude for a person to hold a good deed over someone’s head. Like Jeruba, I would really consider whether or not you need to keep the item or money. If it was money – I would return it – if it is too late, I would start putting money back to give the money back, once I had it saved.

One sincere ‘thank you’ or a nice note – is enough.

lollipop's avatar

I think when you do something for someone else as a ‘favor’ or because you want to help them out, then that should ONLY be the reason you are doing it and NOT to expect something in return later! IF you have those kind of thoughts then you need to rethink your view on having friends and what the true meaning of a friend is and for.

My b.f. does one simple thing that I happen to have asked him several times to do (that I am unable to do myself) and he makes a production (not letting me hear the end of it type of thing) out of it to the point I don’t even want to ask him anything or even talk to him at times! So from my experience, I do something for someone because I want too and don’t expect them to reciprocate in kind necessarily!

Mr_M's avatar

Is there a 3rd party who also knows this? Have THAT party tell her “Hey! How long are you gonna…?”

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Maybe they want a written thank you note? If you’ve already done that, then the next time, ask if there’s something that they expect you to do, that you haven’t done.

wundayatta's avatar

I want to echo Jeruba and CAK’s comments. Unsolicited thanks, like unsolicited praise, is something to be taken seriously. If you ask for it and get it, you have no idea if the person is telling you because you asked them, or because they mean it. When a person asks for thanks or appreciation, it is a sign of the worst kind of lack of confidence. These are people who are houses on movie sets: pretty outside, with nothing inside. They live on praise or thanks, but since they don’t get it, or don’t trust others enough to believe they will get it, they ask for it. They don’t even know the thanks they get are as hollow as they are.

So, what do you do when someone keeps asking you for thanks? I’d say you should give it to them, in as insincere a voice as you can get. In fact, make fun of them. Just go over the top with your thanks. They saved your life; they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, etc. etc. You could even get down and kiss their feet. If that don’t shame them, I don’t know what will. If it doesn’t shame them, then you know they are completely hollow people.

elijah's avatar

@daloon I don’t want to make the person feel bad, because honestly the favor may have saved my life. It was a wonderful thing someone did for me, but it’s getting to the point of me wishing I never met the person. He has serious personality disorders. I feel that by him making me feel bad, it’s his way of trying to hold on to me, to prove I need him.

wundayatta's avatar

Ah. That’s different. I think it is still possible to do the overly grateful thing, but not so much. Just gently. At the same time, if he’s mentally ill, then you kinda got to take that into account. It should partially excuse him from the behavior. He’s being driven to be that way by his insecurities. If you are stronger in an emotional way, then you could be doing him a favor by just reassuring him, and not taking it like he’s trying to manipulate you. Just a thought.

elijah's avatar

The weird thing is he is amazingly brilliant, like certified genius shit. He is just socially retarded. He knows how to behave, but I get the feeling he only does crazy shit to me and probably did it to his ex wife. I can see why he can’t find a relationship, because he is verbally and emotionally abusive. I’ve done my best to be a friend to him. His depression/ illness is no excuse, because if anything I’m more nuts. He is so smart that he knows how to manipulate me, and I’m the dummy who takes it because I care about him.

wundayatta's avatar

You’re no dummy, and that’s a fact! He is socially retarded, and that probably means he doesn’t understand how his actions make other people feel. Perhaps you onle need explain it to him in reasonable, non-attacking terms, and he may try to incorporate it into his way of thinking. He probably has to analyze human relations in a very kind of scientific way. It probably makes no sense to him. I wonder if he has Aspergers. Once explained, though, people like that have a better chance of being more socially appropriate.

elijah's avatar

We have talked about it, many times. He always agrees with me and apologizes, and then a month or so he flips again. I think the best thing to do is cut ties. I can’t handle it anymore.
I think because he is a doctor, he refuses to get mental help because he will look weak.

Jeruba's avatar

@elijahsuicide, a different picture is emerging now. This is not just about thanks and obligations. It’s about power and the abuse of power. Unfortunately I have known a couple of people such as you describe, and I do think the only thing to do is to take oneself out of their way. You are not going to fix him, and it is not up to you to take care of him.

I know a retired doctor who for most of his career did counseling and group therapy for fellow physicians who were addicts. This suggests that there are discreet, supportive resources for doctors who need help, and your friend probably already knows of such resources.

wundayatta's avatar

@Jeruba—Can you explain the power and abuse of power issue? My mind is not leaping to an understanding of that picture. If you could fill it out, maybe I can see where that comes from.

elijah's avatar

I believe it is a power trip. He knows I feel obligated to be a good friend (because I do appreciate the help) and he uses that to control me. He controls our friendship, and manipulates it to fit his mood. If I’m not appreciative enough, I’m a bad person. It’s not right, and if I honestly believed he didn’t know what he was doing (I did believe that in the beginning) it would be easier to accept. But I know he knows what he’s doing. It’s like I know he is doing bad things to me, but how can someone who wanted to help me turn into this? How can someone be such a good person to so many people, and a horrible monster when he chooses?

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