Maxim Monday

The next two Delphic maxims go together: have respect for suppliants and be accommodating in everything.

Both of these maxims refer to requests. Putting the two together can be trickier than it might seem.

A suppliant is a person who is asking something of you. It seems to have an air of an inferior, implying unequal power dynamics. At this point in my life, I’ve discovered that people who are asking me for something (beyond, hey can I borrow a pen?) are usually taking a step outside their comfort zone. If I didn’t need help in some way, I wouldn’t be asking for the ride, the twenty bucks, the babysitting, the trade, the whatever. The request for assistance in whatever form is an act of vulnerability.

For me, my boundaries around asking for most things are pretty good. People can always say no, but no one is going to say yes unless I ask. However, when the emotional stakes are high for me, I often find ways to avoid asking for assistance. Keeping this in mind will help me to have respect for others who ask me for assistance. In general, I am likely to say yes, if I am able.

Which leads me to the second maxim. I’d like to think I am accommodating in most things. However, I am also as stubborn and intractable as a 3-year-old. If a request suits me – even mildly – I am quick to accommodate. If I have strong opinions about a way to do something or have a different idea entirely, well…… good luck getting your way. This is not the most mature attitude.

My own reactions to the second maxim is to take “be accommodating in everything” to mean “give way in every situation,” but I don’t think that’s what is intended. Accommodating a request doesn’t mean giving in or saying yes automatically.

These are the sorts of times when accommodating someone would mean respecting their request. Can I respond with respect, accommodate their perspective, and maybe find a mutually beneficial outcome?

About Niki Whiting
  • Niklas Gander

    I wonder if the word that would be a better translation would be “tolerant?” Be tolerant of all is different from actively accommodating a request. Tolerance could be considered a virtue.


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