Asking for help can one of the hardest things that someone can do. For many it implies weakness, incompetence, an inability to cope, not being good enough, that you are incapable or inefficient. Asking for help is often linked to vulnerability and being beholden to others or in their debt. When we ask for help, we are at a place when we believe we cannot do it without the support from others. This can be a place of shame, guilt, horror and deep discomfort for many of us.
In the last blog, I wrote about the pain and discomfort we are willing to endure as we go through life. Asking for help can be one of those discomforts. It does not have to be.
What I would like to do in this blog is offer some alternative perspectives on asking for help. To alleviate some of the worry and anxiety people may have when it comes to saying, “I cannot do this alone, will you help me?”
Asking for help and trust
From my experience of listening to people and my own life journey, wanting to do something alone, expecting to be able to do it without assistance, comes from a fearful place. I know it sounds paradoxical, but I think it’s true. It sounds like it is a defiant “yes”, that I can do this without assistance. Really, it is a defiant “no”, that I do not trust others and I do it alone because I lack that trust.
Being let down by others or being looked to as the one to lead others in something can lead you to a place of fear. As children, you may have experienced all kinds of situations where parents, siblings and teachers did not lead as perhaps they should have. My parents did not lead by example in strong emotional intelligence. As a consequence, I grew up believing I was in relationships alone. I did not know how to lean into another person and ask for the support I needed. Other examples might include absent or preoccupied parents who were not often there for their children. Or teachers who created a culture of fear in the classroom and so pupils were led to believe they should not ask for help.
When trust has been violated
The result is that you spend energy thinking you HAVE to do it alone and that you cannot rely on others to make it happen. It can lead to an independence that pushes people away. You can become isolated, withdrawn and possessive about your patch. You see this in work situations when senior people micro-manage their juniors. In families this might manifest in over-domineering parenting. Or it may show up in being stuck in any number of life situations where you cannot find a way out. You could remain stuck there for years and not ask for help.
It may point towards a fundamental lack of trust in others. And no wonder, given the experience people have in their formative years and how it shapes them. If your independence and desire to do things on your own is not holding you back, then perhaps this does not apply to you. However, if you are noticing that you are not getting the results you want by going alone, perhaps it is time to question whether help and support from others might be a way forward. Here are some things to get you started:
Do you want to get closer to your goal or not?
If you do and doing it alone isn’t working, you are going to need to enlist the help of others. Be it education, expertise, support, advice or delegation, getting help from others strengthens you. The right people will get you there faster and will help you get further than you could alone. Remember the African proverb “Travel fast, go alone. Travel far, go together.” It takes time and experience to build trust. Don’t be in a rush and do your best to get it right. Asking for help means you are building relationships, getting people to do the jobs they are good at so that you can do the jobs you’re good at. Working as a team evokes trust, gives other people responsibility and allows you to enjoy the journey. In other words, asking for help makes you strong.
Believe it or not, some people are better at certain jobs than you.
It’s hard to relinquish that control. Find someone who you can trust to do the job well- even better than you can. Test them. Find out whether you can trust them. Build the trust over time.
Perhaps people enjoy doing a job you hate.
Asking for help on tasks you really hate doing can be hard too. If you know someone who loves the job you hate, why not do both of you a favour? It gives them pleasure and gives you one less thing to have to do.
Others are willing and able to do some of the tasks you do not have time to do.
You cannot do it all. Though you have done a grand job trying. Rather than flog yourself to fit one more thing in, delegate. Build the trust over time to your own satisfaction.
Are you asking the right person?
Is the person qualified for the job? Or over-qualified? Does the task interest them? Have they got the time? Do they want to help? All these questions will affect how well the person does the job you ask them to do. Discover what lights people up. When you ask them to do things that turn them on, they are far more likely to do an outstanding job. Picking the right person builds your trust in humanity.
People are just itching to excel
Give them the opportunity to shine. For your own process, start small and build your trust. Build their competence and confidence.
People are not mind readers
If you are drowning and wishing someone would help, remember, people are not mind readers. They may not realise you need help. Or they may be waiting for you to ask, for fear of interfering. When you do ask, be specific, so that people understand what they are committing to. Rather than a general “Can you help me out sometime?”, ask specifically with particular details “Would you do this photocopying for me today?” or “Will you take the kids to school for me tomorrow morning?”. The more specific you are, the more the person knows what they are committing to. Therefore, they are more likely to give a genuine full “yes”, counter offer or give you a sincere “no”.
The meanings of “no”
You have drummed up the courage to ask for help and they say “no”!!!! “No” does not mean they do not care. Nor do you need to see it as rejection or a sign that you are not good enough in some way. People say “no” for many reasons. They may feel unqualified for the job. Or maybe they are busy at that time. It is easy to ask the wrong person when you are in a desperate situation. Find the right people to support you, build that trust and develop an open and honest relationship…… and even then, they might say “no”.
Give help to others
People are receptive to giving help when you have helped them out in the past. Some people are just willing to help. I get that. But if you find yourself in a situation when you need/ want help, know that people love being able to reciprocate and do a good job. Use your good will to build trust in others.
When people offer help, assume that they mean it
Take them up on the offer. Your fear of trust may get in the way. Yet, it is their gift to you to help. It is their pleasure. If they didn’t mean it, they’ll find an excuse not to do what you ask. If they are genuine about their offer, they will do it willingly, lovingly and joyfully.
The universe is built on relationship and connection
Not isolation and separation. You are alive by the grace of the air you breathe and the systems that recycle the air around the planet. You rely on food and water to survive. Your existence is entwined with that of everyone on the planet and the Earth itself. You already trust that, or you wouldn’t be alive. Build from there. This deep place of connection. The foundation of your relationship with all things. It is human not to be perfect and so we let each other down sometimes. Let that compassion guide you in trusting others.
Over to you
Trust takes time to build and some of these points might help you build trust over time. What is your relationship to trust? How are you about asking for help? Do you trust other people to do the work you’ve asked them to do well enough? How is your relationship to trust different after applying some of these points? I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences. And if trust continues to be a sticking point for you, perhaps life coaching might help you to shift your relationship with asking for help.
Pass it on
If you know anyone who finds it hard to ask for help, why not send them the link and talk to them about it? And please share the social media posts and post comments. It’s great to get conversation and engagement around these important topics. Thank you.