The helplessness of competent people


Senior Member
English - Australia
I am trying to think of a short phrase that describes a phenomenon I see all the time.

Someone is quite capable of helping themselves or solving a problem suddenly becomes helpless when there is someone else to ask to do it for them.

I see it mostly around computers, where someone could easily work something out themselves with a bit of effort, but as soon as tech support is available they ask for help with every little thing. But I'm sure it happens everywhere. Including right here on this forum.

It's the reason exists.

I'm really hoping for a portmanteau. :)
  • tomtombp

    Senior Member
    I wouldn't call it helplessness, I'd call it choosing the easiest way. I often use an analogy from electronics in these cases which really happen everywhere:
    People are like current. They flow through the path of least resistance. By resistance I mean effort.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    The problem and theory was discussed in "The Games People Play" by Dr. Eric Berne explaining his theory of transactional analysis (See Dr. Eric Berne and Frank Sinatra | A New York Times Essay from 1966) "His theories of behavior are based on the division of every human being into three separate and competing ego states: Child, Adult, and Parent."

    In your case, it is the "Child-Parent" behaviour pattern. But, as it is an interaction between two adults, it becomes an 'artificial dependency'. The Child (the one with the problem) is asking tech support (the Parent) to help, and in doing so is validating both their position and that of technical support.


    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    Help vampire isn't bad, but it leaves out the idea of them being actually competent. Like, if they have no help available they do for themselves happily. Which is different from people who just flail helplessly or give up.

    I think it's a difficult to resist instinct that most people have.
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