How do I ask for help?

Look for empowering solutions. Woman with curly hair looking to the side.

Somewhere along the way, as we experiment with who we are and what we can do, we’re bound to face “new” or unknown circumstances, question some of our decisions, or make mistakes and find ourselves in a tight spot. Should we ask for help, or try to handle these situations ourselves?

Most of us prefer handling our problems on our own for several reasons:

  • It builds confidence in our own capabilities
  • We learn how to handle the same or similar problems in the future
  • We avoid putting our problems on other people
  • We maintain our mask, appearing confident and in control at all times

That’s all well and good—when it works. The problem is, when it doesn’t work, we feel like a helpless burden to those around us. And sometimes, in order to avoid feeling that way, we refuse to ask for help even when we need it. Or even worse, we won’t even acknowledge that a problem exists.

We all need help sometimes, and we should learn to be able to ask for it without feeling ashamed. If you’re struggling to understand your own situation, try thinking through some of these questions.

Are you asking for too much?

Your car has broken down in the middle of the night and you need a ride home. You need to borrow $100 for a week until your next paycheck comes through because you’re afraid a check might bounce. Your kid is sick, but you need to go to work. These may feel like big (or maybe just embarrassing) requests, but you’re hardly asking for someone to buy you a house. How would you feel to be on the receiving end of such a request? If it wouldn’t make you feel weird, then you aren’t asking for too much.

Would you do the same for others?

Maybe you’ve been in a situation where someone’s helped you out, when you thanked them they replied “I know you would do the same for me.” If that’s true for this situation, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Good friends like being given the opportunity to help each other. If you will gladly listen to your friend’s problems but won’t share your own, you may actually be doing damage to that friendship. It’s risky, but modeling a real and transparent connection could be the doorway to forging a significant relationship in life.

Is this a recurring problem?

If you find yourself asking for the same thing over and over again, try looking for a different kind of help. Instead of asking for someone to do something for you, ask them to show you how you can do it for yourself. Or, ask them to help you toward a new goal that would solve your problem in the future.

Are you going to owe someone big time for this?

If you ask someone for help and they say “Yes, but you owe me,” make sure you understand what that person is expecting in the future. If this is your best friend, probably you already know what they mean. But if this is someone you don’t know as well, or maybe someone you don’t trust as much, try responding with an offer that you feel is a fair exchange. Hopefully this will not only clear the air and establish some good will, but also protect you in the future if that person comes back to you with any unreasonable demands. As in asking for advice, asking for help should not be synonymous with giving someone control over your life. While it’s perfectly fair for someone to ask a return favor, it’s not OK for them to try to extort you.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need it sometimes, so we should all be open to helping others as much as we are to asking for help ourselves. The only thing we need to worry about is being trapped in a cycle of constant interdependence or codependence. As we take risks to ask for and give help, remember that we always have control over ourselves. Ask for help when you need it, but look for an empowering solution.

#A2Woman #GoBoldly

Iris Proctor
Iris is the director of ArborWoman.