2010’s Big Question: How Can I Help You?

You may have heard The American Dialect Society deemed “tweet” the word of 2009. Sure, on the surface, tweet is a word that buzzed through our ears with garish regularity. So much so that Conan O’Brien’s Twitter Tracker segment had to bring us back to earth to show there are quite a few tweets out there, especially celeb tweets, that are just not that exciting.

But the proliferation of social media — if we can ignore the annoying popularity contests on the fringes — helped foster a sense of behavior in 2009 best described as generosity.

Twitter, in its best form, has been about building relationships, being authentic and making friends. No more fake stuff. No more “tell me what you can do for me.”

The crescendoing mantra has been “How can I help you?” and I think it’s one that will get louder in 2010 as the generosity culture spreads.

Our most beloved Twitter friends share information, encourage their followers and empower anyone willing to listen. They ask questions, they talk back. They retweet good causes and don’t-miss events.

But generosity isn’t found only in social media. It poured into the medium through real-life relationships. And vice-versa. In late 2008 I stumbled onto the thoughts of author/marketer/motivator Keith Ferrazzi, whose book Never Eat Alone touted relationships based on really getting to know a person by taking advantage of the long, slow lunch or dinner. The follow-up, Who’s Got Your Back, screamed four principles: generosity, candor, vulnerability and accountability.

This means it’s OK to be yourself and talk about your concerns. Because you’re not alone, there are others just like you, and most of the time you find you just can’t do your best all by yourself. You need those lifelines to pull you through and push you to the next level. But the real point: they need you.

2009 for many was about learning that what Time boldly told us on it’s ’06 cover issue is not true. It’s not about “YOU.” It’s about THEM, the people around you. It’s about giving to them without expecting a transactional exchange in return. Give, give, give without worrying about how, when or whether they’ll give it back to you.

In Houston, this movement has been flourishing through the servant-leadership group InHouston, led by Eric Standlee. Eric’s advice: Don’t go to a networking event with a plan to get what you need. Just go ready to give. Walk around the room and ask “How can I help you?”

And I see it in the new contacts I’ve made in the past year. Everyone wants to give. Because the ones who want to take, take, take — well, they fall off the radar these days.


Being generous and other-centered is good for you and good for your business. Because it comes down to relationships, and the best ones are built on trust.

No trust, no deal.


Another conversation that’s been going around centers on the democratization of social media. Everyone who wants to can have a voice. You don’t have to be big business or big money for your voice to resound loudly. You and I have a choice in who we befriend, who we want to listen to. And we all get that warm, fuzzy feeling when someone is generous. We benefit in both emotional and practical ways.


It”s about persuasion. One of  Cialdini‘s principles of persuasion is reciprocity. When someone does good for you, you tend to naturally feel compelled to give back. So generosity begets more generosity.


The most successful people and organizations are listening to see who they can help and how. Dialog with individual people  is a goldmine, and it’s being valued over broadcasting to faceless masses.

What are your thoughts? Do you see generosity as a growing trend in 2010?


3 thoughts on “2010’s Big Question: How Can I Help You?

  1. Nice post. Definetly agree that people, at least in our generation, are leaving relationships that take and don’t give them anything. I think in the past most just worked through those unbalanced relationships.

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