March 1, 2014

4 Tips on How to Ask for Help.

elephants helping family baby

I freely confess that I am terrible when it comes to asking for help.

Blame it on my background, blame it on the fact that I am an Aries, blame it on my inane stubbornness, but for the longest time, I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness.

However, as I have gotten older I have come to realize that John Donne was correct: No man (or woman) is an island. Far from being a sign of weakness, asking for help can be a sign of strength. Tapping into the resources around us can get us on the road of recovery faster and thus, we can end up being self-sufficient a lot quicker than if we try it do it all on our own.

Still, the first step is always the most difficult.

Below are four tips I have found to be especially useful for anyone who needs to ask for help but doesn’t know where to start.

1. Identify what we need help with.

This sounds easy, but it can be quite challenging especially if we have multiple things going on at once. Sometimes, just prioritizing what we need help with first can be helpful.

For instance, three years ago I was dealing with a bout of depression at the same time that I learned that both my parents had serious medical conditions. In my case, I had to deal with the former before I could even begin to deal with the latter. If I had tried to tackle it all at the same time, I have no doubt that I would have failed at both.

It can be tempting to want to fix everything at once, but most things including crises take time. Therefore, allow yourself to have that.

2.  Be specific with what we want or need.

I wrote about it in a recent article, but it can be difficult for people who want to be there for someone to actually “be there.” All too often they don’t know what to do while the person needing the feels abandoned even when that isn’t the intention.

If you are going through an illness and need someone to drive you to the doctor, ask for it.

If you are going through a painful divorce and just want someone to listen to you without offering advice or interrupting, then ask for that.

If the people you ask cannot give you what you need, find someone who can.

3. Surround yourself with supportive people.

Supportive people can make all the difference in the world. Finding them, though, can be easier said than done.

Many of us immediately turn to our circle of friends which is usually a good place to start. One friend suggested that once we know exactly what we need help with, we can send out an email reaching out to those whom we think will be up to the task. See who responds, and go from there.

Depending on your specific problem, there may be local support groups in your area with regular meet-ups. (A good example is Alcoholics Anonymous groups that meet and support both alcoholics as well as the family and friends of alcoholics.)

4. Call in the professionals if you need them.

Friends are wonderful to have, but some challenges require the help of the pros. In general, anything pertaining to illness or incapacitating emotional problems usually goes well beyond what even the most supportive friends can do.

When we find ourselves in these situations, then one of the best places to start is with our regular doctor. Even if they cannot help directly, they probably know someone who can. (Plus, the fact that doctors and other healthcare providers are under confidentiality agreements may it easier to confide in them than even our closest friends.)

The internet is another invaluable source, but be sure to actually do your homework and find out if your expert is really an expert by asking about certification, education, etc.

Asking for help is not easy. If you are like me and fear that by doing so you risk being a burden or appearing weak, it can be downright scary.

However, one thing I learned is that most people sincerely want to help if they can, and they will if we let them.

Often, the scariest thing is that first step but if my own experience is anything to go on, it gets a lot easier from there.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Adéle van Schalkwyk/Pixoto

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