Asking for help
Join the crowd.
Our fierce independence is creating a culture of need—and unprecedented isolation.
Attendance at club meetings is down 58 percent, involvement in church activities has dropped as much as 50 percent, and simply having friends over to the house has decreased 45 percent. Meanwhile, one in four people say they have no one to confide in—and most everyone reports overwhelming levels of stress at home and on the job.
The good news?
You can learn to ask for help. But first, you’ve got to figure why you don’t, why you should, and how you can.
Why we don’t ask for help
Asking for help is so frightening that, even when faced with death, some of us will still not ask for that helping hand. To overcome this dread, you’ve got to debunk some common cultural myths—and face your fears:
Myth: Asking for help makes you look weak or needy.
Reality: There’s no shame in turning to others in times of need. In fact, it’s a sign of strength.
Myth: Asking for help signals incompetence—especially at work.
Reality: Seeking help at work shows others that you want to do the job right—and to develop and learn.
Myth: Asking for help can harm relationships.
Reality: Healthy relationships are about give-and-take—not just give.
Myth: Asking for help puts others in an awkward position.
Reality: It’s human nature to offer help when you see someone in need—and it’s no different when others see you in need.
Myth: Asking for help might lead to rejection.
Reality: Even a “no” response offers the opportunity to learn more about yourself—and your relationships.
Myth: Asking for help means the job might not get done right.
Reality: Refusing to ask for fear of losing control maintains the status quo. Let go and give your helpmate a chance to shine.
Myth: Asking for help means you’ll have to return the favor.
Reality: Help freely given comes with no strings attached—other than a simple and sincere thank-you.
Myth: Asking for help just isn’t the American way.
Reality: Independence and self-sufficiency are admirable qualities that lead to success. Still, all great enterprises—including our nation—were built on mutual support and teamwork.
Why we should ask for help
Mastering the “Mayday” call can ease and enhance your life and career in a variety of ways. Asking for help:
- Deepens connections
When someone answers your call for help, it strengthens the bond between you—or creates the potential for a new relationship.
- Reduces stress and restores energy
Getting help can save you time and energy, simplify your life, and improve your work-life balance.
- Reminds you that you’re not alone
Everyone needs help at times. If you’re the type who endures hardships with grim determination, you’ll discover you don’t have to go it alone.
- Gives happiness to others
Don’t you feel good when you help someone else? Letting others help you gives them that same opportunity.
- Leads to personal growth
Taking risks, learning to trust, and finding out that others have got your back are just a few of the lessons you’ll learn.
- Allows the pleasure of surrender
Being out of control can actually feel great. Once asking for help gets a little easier, you’ll relish the experience of letting go.
- Reminds you that you’re worthy of support
You deserve a hand as much as anyone else. When someone comes to your aid, it reinforces that message.
- Lets others shine
Seeking help gives others the opportunity to reach out, contribute, and try something new.
- Clarifies relationships
Mayday calls reveal the strengths and limitations of relationships—and provide important “aha” moments.
- Solves problems
Don’t overlook the original reason for the Mayday call: You’re in trouble and need help—help that could potentially change, or even save, your life.
How we can ask for help
Too many of us would rather go it alone when help is right there—just for the asking. Here are ways to reach out with comfort and confidence:
Building your Mayday muscles requires regular exercise. Challenge yourself to ask for help three times a day—every day.
- Go easy on yourself.
Self-care is the new self-help. Be compassionate with yourself—and remember that you, too, are deserving of help.
- Cast a wider net.
Expand your list of helpmates. Look beyond the obvious—family and friends, and co-workers—and add some new names to the list, starting with someone who’s been in your shoes.
- Plan the time—and place.
Talk to your potential helpmate as soon as possible. Pick a convenient time for him or her, and do it in person—and in private.
- Be specific.
Articulate your needs. Clarify what you’re looking for—from terms to timelines—though be careful not to micromanage.
- Listen differently.
Be attentive to the subtle cues behind a general “yes” or “no” response. Is your potential helpmate willing—or reluctant?
- Use the “three thanks” rule.
Don’t flub the thanks. Express your gratitude three times—when the agreement is struck, when the need has been met, and when you next see your helpmate.
Ask early, ask often
No one is immune from needing help, even in today’s go-it-alone culture. So, take a risk and “make the ask”—early and often. It just may change your life!