On taking action…without trying to predict how other people will react

Jen Xu
4 min readMar 4, 2024

If you just read the title, it actually sounds like I’m suggesting that you don’t take other people’s feelings or thoughts into consideration. When actually, I’m just suggesting that we strike a balance in being considerate towards others, but not being so swayed by potential choices that others will make that we avoid saying or asking anything at all. I’m not entirely sure what I’m saying makes sense, but who am I to decide what makes sense for you? I guess you’ll have to keep reading. Oops.

Anyway, I know myself well enough that I know I crave control and structure. But I’ve recently realized that I crave control in such a way that I try to predict people’s answers before I’ve even asked them a question, or try to predict if they’ll help me or not. Which is actually kind of insane, but I’ve realized it’s a wall, a bubble of protection, a way to almost just avoid reality. Here are some examples, more work-related than anything:

Before I even ask people for help, I worry that other people will forget what I asked them for help with — not because I don’t trust them to do things, but because I feel like I’m not important enough for them to remember, when they have so many other things on their mind. So it is maybe a lack of trust, but really a lack of trust in who I am; a lack of confidence. So I pre-decide that they probably won’t be able to help me, and worry the entire time when I do ask them, and especially after.

Before I ask people for help, I worry that what I’m asking is over-stepping a boundary. I forget that asking people for help is ok. I somehow decide for them that what I ask crosses a boundary, so then I don’t ask, or I ask it in a weird convoluted way that’s even more confusing.

Before I ask people for help, I’ll think of every scenario that could occur, and pre-answer those questions for people by making my question a long paragraph — these are things that they will probably not ask, and would often never even dream of asking, my brain just kicks into overdrive and shouts at me. But then I inevitably miss the one question that they do ask, and then I kick myself for “being so stupid”.

I like asking questions because I like solving problems. The problem is, when there isn’t a problem — I’ll often make a problem, just to have something to solve. It’s not because I then get to feel “productive” or “good about myself”, I just really struggle to get my mind to sit still. Which contributes to my work ethic, which is great, but also drives me (and my loved ones) insane.

So, now what? How do I fix this?

  1. Start trusting people who are put there to help me. Start trusting that I am important enough to be remembered when I ask for help.
  2. Stop predicting what other people will do. Stop choosing for other people and letting that “choice” influence my actions — within the sphere of appropriate and logical actions, of course.
  3. Stop setting boundaries for other people (but recognize when I’m drastically over-stepping, of course). Let them come to me and tell me if I’m over-stepping. Recently I’ve been asking more questions and I’ve been being told to check things out myself — which is basically boundary setting. And I don’t like it because it makes me feel stupid (like, “why didn’t I just think of that?? Why am I so annoying?”), but it’s important to have these lessons early in my career.
  4. Keep my questions short. I tend to ramble, as potentially evidenced by this thing that I’m writing. I usually go back and edit my questions, and it’s helped keep my messages shorter. I’ll have to keep this up.
  5. Worry less about things that haven’t happened yet. Plan for them, but don’t let them weigh on me. This is probably one of my biggest issues. I will plan out a response to each potential issue, which I think is helpful for myself, but it’s not helpful for everyone around me. I don’t need to ask about every single thing that could go wrong, because they may not go wrong, and it’s not a useful way to spend my time, or someone else’s time.
  6. I’ve noticed that I struggle to explain to people what I’m thinking, so they inevitably get confused. Then I get a twinge of annoyance before I remember that I am the one asking the question — therefore I need to be the one who works to get my point across, instead of being mad that other people aren’t understanding me. At some point they might just be misunderstanding me, but it’s the whole “take the plank out of your own eye first” thing — take a look at myself before I blame others. I don’t quite know how to fix this, but I might just start with all of the above^. Simplifying the way I ask for help might just simplify my messages.
  7. Don’t make a problem out of nothing. Remember that not everyone lives to solve problems — I just happen to love problems and projects and logistics. I’m a little nuts, I know that! This probably is also why I think so much about things that haven’t happened yet. But boy, my life could be so much easier!

So, here’s a challenge to myself to just quit deciding things for other people before I ask those people — to trust myself and trust others more, but also to just be myself.



Jen Xu

Athletic trainer, PhD student, coffee lover. I write about fitness, mental health, being Asian-American, and personal growth.