Paul has said this to me a few times. Each time my reaction has been, "What do you mean? I'm not patronizing you. I truly want to help you." Hmm. He always says it as nicely as he can, but he didn't like what I offered, so I keep working on my tone to make sure my suggestions don't sound 'bad.'
The last time he said I was patronizing, I had to google the word to figure out what the hell I was doing wrong. I finally found a description that helps me understand; "To treat in a way that is apparently kind or helpful but that betrays a feeling of superiority. To patronize someone condescendingly is to treat them as if they're in need of extra help because they're not capable by themselves." I think I finally get it.
When I offer help, I have good intentions. It's a way for me to show that I love someone and feel like I'm doing good in the world. It's also a way for me to try and earn the person's love or favor back. I have an aching need to be liked and loved. Helping or rescuing someone is one path to gain that acceptance.
You have to be careful though offering help, as others can develop a dependence on that help rather than learning to take care of themselves. For example, when I loaned money to a family member to ‘help’ them get out of debt, I was never paid back, and their life seems no better for the aid.
Helping when it isn't wanted or needed can make someone feel obligated, guilty, or manipulated. Or patronized. I imagine Paul hears, "you can't do this for yourself, so I must do it for you." Not at all my intention.
When Mike passed away, a family member very kindly offered to pay for the funeral. I didn't need any help with the funeral and found it uncomfortable to keep telling them, "thank you, but no." It felt demeaning. They didn't know my financial standing, and I didn't want to say that I could easily afford it due to our sound financial decisions. But they never asked if I needed the assistance. They just told me what they wanted to do for me.
A similar situation arose when a thoughtful coworker created a fundraiser at the same time. I didn't want it and didn't need it. But I quickly realized that it wasn't for me but for them. They needed something to do to 'help' me. So, I figured out a way for them to 'help', and I took the kind intentions as they were meant. It was challenging to accept, though, because, again, it felt degrading.
Looking back, I'm worried about how I have made people feel by ‘helping.’ How did I make them feel? Did I help them or myself?
The moral of the story is to think about why you are jumping in to help or 'rescue' someone. Are they capable of handling the situation themselves? Is the help in your best interest? And then give yourself enough time to respond with reason versus reacting with emotion.
I'm now trying to say what I am feeling and thinking. Like, "Can I do this for you because I am heading that way anyway?" "I'd like to do this for you because I know your foot hurts, and I don't want you to have any pain."
Now, how can I help you? LOL (or lol for you young-ins)