Am I bothered?

“You know, when I think about all the people I know around here spending Christmas on their own, I wonder why we didn’t just get together and spend it with each other…..” So mused my GoodGym (www.goodgym.org) coach last week when I popped round to visit her, and it really struck a chord with me.

This is exactly the sort of thing I hear discussed in local government circles all the time these days – how do we help people do more for themselves – and where we spend a lot of time and attention trying to get people to do things they may well be thinking about doing already(!)

Which got me thinking that as public professionals we may well have got caught up asking the wrong the wrong question. Instead of trying to figure out how to help people to do more for themselves, perhaps we should be considering the idea that lots of people are more interested in doing more for themselves, so WHY don’t they?

The trouble with this question is that it probably leads to a multitude of answers that reflect the multitude of different situations and personalities that are out there. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and propose that there might be a consistent theme running through all those potential answers – “I don’t want to be a bother”. Doesn’t that feel like such a uniquely and identifiably British phrase?

I didn’t call because they’re probably having dinner.

They’re probably out.

They’re probably busy.

They don’t want to hear me moan on.

So on and so forth.

I’ve heard these so many times (probably said them as well!) and it has got me thinking that instead of trying to get people to “do the right thing” or “take pride in their local area”, we simply remind them that other people aren’t that scary, or busy, or worried about being bothered. We remind them how nice it is when someone takes an interest, or calls out of the blue, or even just makes eye contact and smiles, and let them know that they have the power to make someone else feel that way too.

So if you contact me, will I be bothered? No, not in the slightest it turns out, and neither will most people.

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