The next in this series of one thing for wellbeing is about asking for help. It’s something that some struggle with, so what if you could find ways of doing it easily and well. And, understood how it’s good the for the person you’re asking too?
Why can it be hard to ask for help?
This can be quite hard to pin down as it’s very different for everyone.
If, like me, you were encouraged to be independent when growing up, the focus could be on finding your own solutions to problems and challenges.
Perhaps you felt there was noone you COULD ask because of your circumstances; that you won’t be believed, or that you’ll not get a positive response.
For some, the fear of being turned down can stop you in your tracks as this fear is bigger than anything you could gain from the help itself.
Maybe you feel that you don’t deserve help – that somehow you have to earn the right to help. Or that you’re embarrassed about your problem – perhaps if it’s around mental health.
Sometimes, we have an expectation that it should be obvious that we need help, when often, others are oblivious to our needs.
And, finally (although you may have more) articulating exactly what it is you need can be challenging.
How to make it happen
Finding out what might be stopping you from making that ask is a great place to start. What’s been your past experience of this? What can you learn from how it’s been in the past that will make you more successful this time?
What’s really important here is the mindset with which you approach this ask. If you’ve spent all night imagining the number of ways the person might say no and how much they might laugh at you and how they’re gonna judge you, then you’ve already sabotaged yourself.
How about running a more positive tape? How will you be when you approach them? What tone will you use? What picture can you build of your ask being successful? How can you respect the other person in this ask by being open, honest and genuine?
These are some good practice tips which I’ve gathered from my own client work;
Find the right person.
This might be someone in your inner circle, or maybe someone you don’t know. I know that many of my clients find it much easier to talk to me (a stranger) than to their friends and family.
Why are you asking that person?
Be very specific about why you’re asking that person in particular. Have they got the skills you need? Do you trust them to keep your confidence? Have they helped you before? Have they dealt with a similar situation? Making it personal is more likely to bring success as we all want to know why we’re being the helpful person. What you’re looking for is a person’s capability and willingness. If you feel either of those is low or missing, then it might be you need to ask someone else.
Decide the right time.
If you’re sensitive to the other person’s situation, you might find that they’ll be more able to help you at certain times. For example, ringing your friend when they’re trying to get their children off to school in the morning might not work well.
Decide how to make the ask.
If it’s something that’s not urgent, maybe a text or even an email might work best so that the other person can deal with the request at a time that’s good for them. Although a face to face ask is proven to be more effective, being sensitive to your helper’s needs will increase your chances of success.
Think about the outcome you want.
Having this clarity makes it easier to ask. It also allows you to break down your ask if you feel unable to ask for help with everything.
Be clear about the help you actually want
This is different to the outcome as it may be that you want help with a specific part of the problem. Perhaps you have different skill sets from different people.
If you apologise and hesitate, the very least that will happen is that the person you’re asking will be very unclear about what you actually need. The worst scenario is that they will be less likely to help as they’ll be put off! It also minimises your need which may not inspire the help you need.
Make sure that, as well as saying thank you, you let the person know the outcome of their help. We all want to know that our efforts are worthwhile and that we’ve made a difference. Feeling part of something bigger is part of what it takes to be a well human.
What’s in it for the helper?
This is the brilliant bit! Whilst we might get the help we want, it’s also great for the person we’re asking as well!! Some of the reasons are above.
It feels good to be part of something bigger than ourselves – helping someone else means we’re not alone and we can add value
We can see the world through a different lens. Sometimes, having a different perspective on life can help us solve our own problems too.
Helping others releases feel good brain chemicals such as dopamine and, particularly oxytocin, which not only make us feel great, but can really help us connect to others better too. We often see things, and others, more sympathetically when we’ve been asked to help out.
Feeling of value to others can help our self esteem. We can make new contacts and connections and get involved in things we might not have otherwise come across.
When we help others, it gives us a sense of purpose – it’s well documented that this can increase our own happiness too.
Winston Churchill is said to have commented; ‘We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.’
So, why not ask for help?
Humans are not meant to exist in isolation; we’re designed and have evolved to live as part of a community. When you’re open to receiving help, you can help others feel fantastic too, can’t you?
Asking for help can boost others’ self esteem too as they get to increase their own self efficacy in problem solving.
And, why would you not give someone else the opportunity to boost their own feel good brain chemicals too?
Of course, asking for help in a genuine way gives the helper the opportunity to say that they’re unable to help out. Sometimes, that’s just at that moment, but sometimes they may not want to/be able to help at all. Although this can feel disappointing at the time, because you’ve asked them in a genuine way, you know that it’s been an honest transaction and that it’s OK for them to say no. If they’re able to say why, it might inform how you ask for help the next time too.