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Pavlov Should Have Drawn Lines!!!

I’ll preface this with, I’m not standing on my soap box and complaining—my team took the box away!! 😊.  I had a few conversations this week with different people but similar themes, leading me to this topic.

This week marked the 1-year anniversary of my stent procedure. Modern medicine is amazing; the whole procedure took less than 90 mins and I walked (no wheelchair) out of the hospital the next day and went to work (yes, I am a workaholic). A day later, I was at a friend’s 50th birthday. I was just a guest, but received a lot of attention from friends concerned about the procedure and offering unsolicited advice. All was well intentioned and given out of love, which I appreciated.

A week after, I attended a small party at my brother’s house where many of the guests were doctors who offered more advice. Sometimes solicited, more often not. But again, all friends sharing their knowledge out of love and concern (at least I assume so 😊), which I appreciated. I started to wonder, though, what if they were not friends but were strangers I met randomly at an event and I asked them for advice simply because they were in the medical profession? Is that right or fair? They are after all professionals, paid for their expertise.

Why is it that when we meet someone who is an expert in their field, we assume it’s ok to ask for their advice and expect it, whether that be in a business or social setting? Is it fair or right to cross that line?  Granted, in most cases, the person asked is willing to give their opinion. People are generally willing to help and generous with their time, but where are the lines drawn and how do we know when we’ve crossed them? I’m sure I have crossed them many times over.

Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning explains how behavior can be shaped through the association of a stimulus with a response. My doctor friends may have previously offered their expertise for free, and through stimulus-response association, I’ve learned to expect free advice from them. Over time with conditioning, I started to believe I have a right to that advice. By consistently offering their services for free, they have unintentionally conditioned me to expect free work, leading to a situation in which they may feel taken advantage of. Pavlov should have drawn a line. 😊

As I mentioned before, I’m guilty on both sides of this. I’ve given advice and have not been shy about asking professional advice from others in casual settings. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to be helpful and generous with our knowledge and skills, but it’s also important to recognize when we’re being taken advantage of or when we might be taking advantage of someone else.  We should set clear boundaries and communicate them. We also need to learn the signals and boundaries of others and respect them. In this way we can help each other relax and enjoy social time, while leaving professional skills and discussions at the office for another day. In other words, we simply must work together to recondition ourselves and each other and draw our own lines.

“Boundaries are a part of self-care. They are healthy, normal, and necessary.” – Doreen Virtue

Have a great weekend.