Everyone needs a little help sometimes…
No one can be a master at everything and sometimes a job is just too big for one person.
That’s not just a physical job, like, “Hey! Can you help me move this table?”
But also the job of life… sorting out and managing your emotions, making good decisions, achieving your aims and goals, and trying to push toward greater overall well-being and a better you.
These are complicated journeys of work, self-discovery, and exploration as we strive to bring ourselves into a healthier mental state with a clearer perspective.
But there is a problem.
There are many people out there who will not ask for help because they don’t want to feel awkward or burdensome.
How can we avoid feeling awkward or troublesome when asking another person for their help?
Well, the short answer is, you can’t.
There will always be some degree of anxiety or nervousness in asking for help because to ask for help requires showing vulnerability.
And people, particularly those who have been through a lot or have been hurt by others, can have a difficult time allowing themselves to be and feel vulnerable.
And then there is always the worry that the other person isn’t going to respond well.
The good news is that there are ways to lessen that awkwardness and anxiety when asking for help, and ways to soften the situation if you are the person who is being asked for help.
Know Who You’re Asking For Help
Who is the person that you are asking for help from? Are they someone who is equipped and able to provide the kind of help that you need?
That perspective covers a wide range of asks. And asking for help from the right person can make it easier to actually ask.
Should I ask my elderly neighbor for help in moving my couch? No, that doesn’t make much sense.
Should I be asking a distant acquaintance for help and support with a problem I am having? Well, maybe, but probably not.
Should I be asking for mental health support from a parent that doesn’t believe in mental illness? That’s going to end badly for me.
There are a lot of well-meaning messages out there that are encouraging more people to come forward, speak up, and try to foster a better environment to ask for help.
The problem that is rarely addressed in those messages is the knowledge and attitude of the people you want to ask.
You have people who…
…won’t think you need help,
…don’t believe that your problem requires help,
…will be more than happy to sound off on their opinions without actually listening or providing help,
…want to help but have no relevant knowledge or experience on how to help.
And then you have people who just don’t care either way.
Know your audience before making the ask, especially if you are asking for help with a mental or emotional problem.
That person may love and care deeply about you, but they may not know how to provide meaningful help and support – and that can be destructive.
A good way to assess the situation is to gently test the waters by asking questions like, “What do you think about XYZ?” to see what their answer will be.
Formulate Your Words And Thoughts Before Asking
A big part of the nervousness and anxiety in asking for help is not knowing what to say and how to say it.
That’s something that you can think about and formulate before you actually sit down to ask someone for their help.
Early preparation also offers you time to rehearse what you want to say before, so you don’t carry as much fear about tripping over your words when it comes time to actually ask.
The way you approach an ask will depend on what you’re actually asking for and how much help you need.
For less serious matters, you could use jokes and humor to make the ask, such as bantering with a coworker when you need some help on a project.
In more serious situations, concise and clear is a much better approach.
A person who is nervous or may have difficulties with socialization can find themselves tripping over their words or over-sharing while they are anxious.
If you can stay rooted in the moment, focused on what you’ve already decided to say, you can avoid the kind of behavior that often contributes to feeling self-conscious or awkward.
Another approach is to focus on initiating a conversation, rather than an information overload on to the person listening.
That way you can also test the waters to see how receptive the person is to either listening or lending a helping hand.
“Hey, can I talk to you for a minute? I’m having a problem with XYZ and could really use some help.”
That approach lets you clear the way to having the discussion that you want to have.
It also gives you the opportunity to test the waters before you reveal anything too personal to someone who may not handle that well.
And it gives the other person a chance to decline before you’ve laid everything open and exposed your vulnerability to them.
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Take Action Sooner Instead Of Later
Anxiety plays a role in preventing people asking for help.
It would be awesome if we could come out here and tell you that there is a clear way to move forward without any feelings of discomfort at all, but there’s not.
You’re going to be uncomfortable and it’s just something you have to accept as a price associated with asking for help.
Nothing dispels anxiety about a thing that you need to do like actually going and doing the thing.
The longer you sit and think about it, the more time your doubts have to spin out of control and paralyze your actions.
Delaying also pushes back your ability to make meaningful gains and changes. The longer you wait, the longer you will take.
By all means, take some time to think about it and formulate a course of action, but don’t let yourself sit on the matter indefinitely.
The sooner you take action, the sooner you’ll be able to let that anxiety go and push forward to a successful resolution.
Showing Compassion When Asked For Help
Being asked for help can be an uncomfortable experience, but it doesn’t have to be.
Do consider the type of help that you are being asked for, if it is something you are able to do, and if it is something that will cause harm to your life.
Boundaries are a healthy part of showing compassion for other people…
…sometimes you just can’t help.
…sometimes the help you’re being asked for is too much.
…sometimes you’re just not in a good enough place to offer the kind of help they are requesting.
…and sometimes you may not have the skill, knowledge, or qualification to provide that kind of help.
All of these things are okay. If you can’t help, just aim for not doing harm.
How do you do that?
Opinions are a dime a dozen. Though it may be tempting, it’s often better to keep one’s opinions to oneself in sensitive or delicate matters. So think before you speak.
An unkind word spoken at the wrong time can do a lot of harm to a person by causing them to doubt themselves and others to the point where they won’t ask for help in the near future.
That can result in years of unnecessary suffering if the person can’t shake that opinion.
A solid approach if you are not able to provide the help that is requested is to say, “I don’t feel like that’s something that I can help you with, but I can help you look for someone who can.”
Many people don’t know where to turn to look for the help they need. Having two people trying to find it can significantly ease the burden on the person who is doing the asking and get them moving on a better, healthier path.
Sometimes people need to feel like they are being understood, that someone is on their side. The easiest way to do that is to let them lead the conversation and not overwhelm them with your own opinions and thoughts.
Practice Kindness To Oneself And Others
Be kind to yourself, not just to others. It’s difficult to ask for help, and sometimes it’s difficult to be asked for help.
But we all need some help sometimes.
Human beings are inherently social, emotional creatures that need one another in different capacities.
The more we can work together, the better results we can achieve in all facets of our lives, whether it’s working on our mental health or trying to get something done for work.
All you can do is the best you can.