It might be a little odd to advise people to try to seem helpless. After all, some are that way naturally, and do not need to simulate it – some are never helpless, and are better for that. But those of us in the middle…sometimes competent and confident, and sometimes a quivering mass…need to know when to turn it on and when to turn it up…
a. If you are trapped in a dark alley between outlaw motorcycle gangs and rabid dogs, do not appear helpless. It only encourages them. Take the opportunity – perhaps your one and only one – to go mad and bad and dangerous to approach. Go incandescently insane.
b. If you are in a position where dignity is foremost, do not show any helplessness. Stiffen your upper lip and any other portions of your body that may seem appropriate, and behave like a gentleman or a lady. If you cannot decide which of the two to be, go icy and reserved. No-one likes to touch a corpse.
c. In all other circumstances…act helpless. It pays dividends.
If you go to any government agency…or really any office at all…you can be assured that they have more rules than ever you know about, and even when they provide an explanation, it is to their satisfaction, not yours. Here the helpless act compels them to assist in some way. Even if it is just to get rid of you before morning tea break, they will expedite the process.
Likewise professional offices will assist with their own professional processes…if you stand back and let them proceed. Be kind to the receptionist and let her solve the problems she could make you if you were argumentative and entitled.
Helplessness also will get assistance from people in shops, service stations, on the buses and trains, and really anywhere that is public enough. Do not exploit it, but reserve it for times when something really is all too much. Likewise, step up and assist someone else who you can see failing. That’s the secret to being moral. That and not setting fire to haystacks.