Why We Need to Ask for Help
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We are told that “no man is an island,” and “humans are social creatures.” These words suggest that we all need to help each other. At the same time, we also celebrate self-sufficiency and generally dislike clingy people. Taken to its extreme, we do all we can to avoid relying on others and flaunt it, because doing otherwise would be co-dependent and parasitic…. right? Basically, we get a lot of conflicting messages that can affect how we ask for help and whether or not we even bother asking at all.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint when I started to avoid asking for help. Maybe it began when I was a quiet child who was known for being kinda socially awkward. I compensated by being a decent student who did relatively well on my own. Perhaps I felt smothered whenever people helped without me asking, and this pushed me to assert whatever independence a young child could.

Or maybe it happened as I grew older. I’d watch friends and family members get taken advantage of in some way. In other words, some people approaching my friends/family would mainly appear when they had a problem. When providing the requested help wasn’t possible or ideal, these perpetual victims would resort to badmouthing and sometimes threats. So maybe somewhere along the line, my brain started to associate asking for help with obnoxiousness.

Wherever the tendency stemmed from, not knowing how and when to ask for help can really come back to haunt you.

Why we avoid asking for help

People sometimes avoid asking for help because they fear looking weak or incompetent. The issue of looking weak comes in different flavors. It’ll likely depend on a person’s perceived experience. A person surrounded by more knowledgeable colleagues may keep to him or herself and attempt to hide a perceived weakness. Perhaps he or she feels undeserving of associating with everyone until he or she could “catch up.” This person who avoids asking for help may fear sounding stupid or not knowing how to word his or her question.

If the person unable to ask for help seems more experienced than most of his or her peers, the fear of looking weak may stem from really high expectations, either from him or herself or the group. This person doesn’t want to disappoint everyone, and may suffer from some sort of imposter syndrome. If his or her peers wave off any insecurities and insist that everything will be fine (This can unintentionally minimize the problem!), he or she may be even more hesitant to reach out.

In both cases, not wanting to look weak stems from constantly comparing appearances. It’s as though there’s an imaginary but intimidating barbed fence between the person in need of help and everyone else unaware of the problem.

Not knowing when to ask for help comes with consequences

If you’re dealing with a sickness or injury, not knowing when to rest and delegate responsibilities could endanger your health (and potentially that of others. Some examples are spreading your illness or insisting on driving with passengers in an unfit state.) Professionally, taking on too much or not asking for clarification on a complex task could hurt efficiency in a way that negatively impacts your team.

In your personal life, chances are that some of your friends or family honestly want to know about how you’re faring in life, regardless of whether or not they can help. Not confiding in them may inadvertently convey that you don’t trust them. In some cases, these friends/family members may believe you’re trying to keep your distance. This could hinder them from opening up to you.

Not very pleasant, huh? Here are some ways you could avoid these situations and ask for help.

Try some things on your own

When you reach a roadblock, pause what you’re doing to evaluate your progress and what’s left to do. Try your best to make sense of the situation and determine whom you could reach out to. Doing these things will help you frame your questions better.

Showing that you’ve put some thought and effort into resolving your problem isn’t just about saving face. It also conveys that you are willing to work with whoever is helping you and that you are not expecting them to do everything.

Swallow your pride

Make it a point to focus on the learning process rather than how “dumb” you seem. Chances are that the people you look up to were once in your shoes. In order for them to progress into their current selves, they probably had to go through a similar process in reaching out. An eagerness to improve and learn is far from dumb!

Offer something in return

This will depend on who you’re consulting for help. Basically you want to help the other person help you. For example, offer gas money or food to the friend who gave you a ride somewhere at the last minute. It’s a nice gesture of gratitude for their time.

If you can’t come up with anything tangible to give to your helper, try framing the experience so they see it in a positive light. In many cases, a ‘thank you,’ good vibes, and a listening ear suffice.

If you're told "no,"

The person you asked probably lacked the knowledge or time. Once you’ve already determined that you need help, don’t give up. Try asking elsewhere. Whatever happens, don’t let it feed into whatever mentality normally prevents you from reaching out.

Before thanking them for listening, see if the person you approached knows of something or someone that may lead you to your solution.

Everyone wins

Keep this in mind throughout the problem-solving process. Do your part so that you aren’t taking advantage of another person’s kindness. Also promptly walk away from those who you suspect are trying to sabotage you (and in the worst cases, guilt trip you into sticking around because they’re “helping.”)

In conclusion, when you reframe asking for help as part of a collaborative process that benefits everyone involved, it becomes a more positive experience.

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Marjorie Desamito
https://www.linkedin.com/in/marjorie-desamito-b85033117/ || Like a lot of people here, I strive to reach my potential while learning how to enjoy life and believe in myself. Outside of freelance writing, I like coffee, food, music, design, surprises, and martial arts.
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