Why some smart people don’t help other people?

Why some smart people don’t help other people?

By Rajesh Setty on Thu 25 Mar 2010, 1:12 AM – 6 Comments

Most smart people are capable of helping other people. Some of them do and some of them don’t. People are happy with those people that help and people resent those that don’t help.

I have had many people share their frustration from people who have not gotten a response to their request for someone smart. They complain that it would have just taken “five minutes” for this expert to help them but the expert “chose” to not help.

You can attribute many reasons for this behavior. You could say

* Those smart people are not the “helpful” type

* They don’t “care” much

* They are too busy

* They are “selfish”

* They don’t have a big “heart”

I can go on and on about what the reasons might be.

But let us take another look again. Here are a few things to consider:

1. Smart people are also human beings. They cannot scale

Bits scale. Atoms don’t. Smart people are also human beings. On the same day, two social media stars Chris Brogan (Redrawing) and Jason Falls (Some social media housekeeping around the Explorer) opened their heart and shared why it is difficult to continue to engage the way they were engaging.

2. It’s not just “five minutes”

Smart people get hundreds of requests that individually take “five minutes” but collectively will take more than “24 hours” in a day. Unfortunately they have their own lives to lead and if they don’t take care of themselves, they won’t be there to take care of others.

3. 1-1 help requests put a dent on leverage

Many smart people share a LOT and a large number of them are helpful on various social media platforms. Since they are spending a ton of time for “free” already, it may be tempting to think that they can simply give a “little bit more time” to you individually. Just remember that as they move to help 1-1, smart people start losing leverage. Unless, unless you have proven to them that it is worth building a relationship with you.

4. Your request may have gotten just the attention it truly deserves

One of the fundamental tenets of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is that “the meaning of your communication is in its response.” If your request is worthy of being ignored, chances are that it will be. If it is a badly formed (or irrelevant or meaningless) pitch, you can be guaranteed that you won’t get a response.

5. Dig your well before you are thirsty

Sometimes you can get lucky. You make a request and it gets fulfilled even if you had not built a relationship with the person. In most cases, that won’t work. You have to build a relationship way before you make a request. If you take the famous banking metaphor, you have to make a deposit, before you can make a withdrawal.


6. What is meaningful to you need not be meaningful to them

In simple terms, the impact of fulfilling your request is not big enough compared to the alternative opportunities that these smart people have on their hand. Remember that they too only have 24 hours and choices have to be made on where that time is invested. Your request might just have not made the cut.

OK, here is the point:

If you blame it on smart people about not helping you, it won’t help you much. You rarely can change how those people behaved and you rarely can improve your chances of getting help from someone like them in the near future. Simply because you don’t improve by wishing that others change. You don’t improve by focusing on others. You improve by focusing on what you can do to get better.

There are (a minimum of) two things that you can do have a better chance of getting your requests fulfilled. Here they are:

1. Be an opportunity

Unfortunately, if you are not an opportunity, you are probably an opportunity cost. Who is making the request is equally or probably more important than “what” the request is. The more you invest in yourself, the higher your chances are of “being an opportunity” for someone.

2. Make the request more meaningful (to them)

Your request is definitely important to you. But can you spend a few minutes to make sure that fulfilling that request is meaningful to them? In the age of social media, it is not hard to figure out what is meaningful to them. In simple terms, it’s called research. And yes, it takes time. And yes, it is worth spending that time before you go and make that request.

Ok, before you go – here is a brilliant article by Tamar Weinberg on how to get an influencer’s attention.


You may also be interested in other mini-research outcomes:

1. Why some smart people are reluctant to share? (Dec 26, 2009)

2. Why nice people will win BIG TIME in the long run? (Jan 15, 2010)


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6 Comments so far, Add Yours

Dave Taylor  on March 25th, 2010

I’ll give you a simple one too, Rajesh: if you are asking someone for help, be polite and appreciative. I get a surprising number of queries that are just “I have this question: how do you….” or similar. Same question starting with “Love your stuff, and I know you’ve written about this before, but I think my situation’s a bit different. What’s your though on …”

And I don’t think this has anything to do with smart people either. I think even dumb people who are in the public eye must face the same basic dilemma too: do you “give away” your time to others who often aren’t even particularly polite or appreciative, or do you draw the line somewhere and say “I field a question a day” or “I answer some on my blog” or even “sorry, I’m just too busy” ??

Rajesh Setty  on March 25th, 2010

Thanks Dave.

Totally agree with that. Being “polite and appreciative” is on the other end of “feeling entitled.”

Most people confuse “access” to “entitlement” and that’s where all the confusion begins.



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David  on March 27th, 2010

Great post. I’d have to agree with Dave on the gratitude. It goes a long way.

I also won’t help at times because the requester is being lazy. My response has sometimes been: “Sure, it’ll take me 5 minutes but it took me 3 hours to do it the first time too. So you either try your self or be prepared to pay a rate equal to 2-3 hours of my time”. If they can’t see the logic in that, they can move to another solution giver.

Ultimately it’s ME who needs to dictate my charity jobs. Not another persons lazyness. I’ll give myself an amen for that!!

Rajesh Setty  on March 27th, 2010


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views.

Have a great weekend.



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