how to ask for help when you need it

How to ask for help when you need it.

A lot of people aren’t good at asking for help because they are so used to being helpers. Their favorite sentence is “I’ll figure it out on my own. I don’t want to bother anyone”. It’s called self-reliance. Unfortunately, self-reliance is sometimes equivalent to self-abandonment.

Self-reliance is when you don’t see yourself asking anyone for anything. It could be out of the fear of rejection or you’ve had a traumatic experience that came from needing help and nobody turning up, or being literally ignored. Not asking for help limits you and stifles your growth and productivity on all fronts. What you need to know, is that PEOPLE ACTUALLY ENJOY HELPING! Being able to be there for someone in one capacity or the other, makes people feel good about themselves so it’s a win-win.


How then do you navigate this unhealthy reflex and ask for help when you need it?

Selective Vulnerability

People who have been judged, misunderstood or taken for granted naturally find themselves battling with opening up about themselves. This automatically makes asking for help a non-existent option because it would require them to be vulnerable. 

What you need to know, is that there would always be someone who wouldn’t take your vulnerability for granted. Don’t ask for help or confide in someone with a track record of being unstable with their loyalties, a gossip, or a generally tactless person. Go for people you perceive to be mature, down to earth, and genuinely concerned about you. Never underestimate the power of being thoughtful about who you ask.

State your needs as specifically as possible

I would love you to pause for a second and imagine yourself in from of an ATM machine. Everyone who goes to the ATM wants to go and withdraw cash but the amount would ALWAYS differ. By default, the dispenser would ask how much you specifically want to withdraw. 

In the same vein, start employing what I call the ATM principle when you need to ask for help. The urge to beat around the bush is usually strong, especially in the early stages of asking. But with practice, you get better at being specific. Part of being specific is to tell them why you need the help. This gives your helper more context and enables them to render the assistance that you really need.

Make it as personal as you can

Depending on the gravity of the help you require, make sure you ask in a way that the person you’re asking is able to read the need in your tone, voice, or mannerism. Don’t send impersonal one-liners that can be misread as you taking your prospective helper for granted. Communicate your respect, how much you need the help and how much their help would mean to you.

Prepare your mind for the worst

Regardless of your relationship with the person you’re asking, never assume you would get an automatic YES. That right there is your entitlement finding expression. People can decline to help you for a variety of reasons. The best of humans are still humans after all. Give people the benefit of the doubt, always. And when you get a no, DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY.

It had nothing to do with your asking. Don’t allow your inner critic to overflog the issue and start inserting regretful thoughts in your mind. “I shouldn’t have gone to her”, “I should have known better”… These thoughts do not bear credence to the reality of things so brush them away by reminding yourself that there’s no wrong in asking. There never would be.

Ask for help, but don’t be a parasite

Abusing access to certain people would only make them see you as a nuisance. Bear in mind that regardless of anyone’s love and concern for you, they also have needs of their own. Be circumspect about asking for help. You can ask for advice and tips on any issue on your mind but don’t go about, asking random people for money.  You’ll lose respect and won’t be taken serious afterwards. Don’t prey on the goodwill of people.

Don’t apologize!

In order to make up for the embarrassment and discomfort we feel when we ask for help, the urge to cushion it with an apology is usually very strong. You find yourself making statements like “I’m so sorry to bother you…”  Resist the urge! The truth is, an apology sounds weird and actually gives your request a certain awkwardness that could’ve been avoided. Apologizing also falls in the same category as using disclaimers like “usually I’m not in the habit of asking for help, but…” Awkwaaaaaaard. There’s no need for all that honestly.

Finally, never be stingy with gratitude after you’ve received the help, send them follow-up messages in tandem with what they assisted you with. Something like “Hi Tosin. Thank you for helping with the last minute tutorial. I had a ‘B’ in the course. You rock!” is proof that you’re thoughtful. If the help you received came with a deadline; a loan, for example, keep to the agreed deadline. If you have any reason to default, let them know. Don’t just keep quiet and make them regret helping you.



About the Author(s)

Dedoyin Ajayi is a Therapist with a specialty in Emotional Health. She has a diploma in Professional Counselling and is a certified Neuro-linguistic Programming practitioner from the Academy of Modern and Applied Psychology. She has an MSc in Psychology (in view) from Liverpool John Moore University, UK.

She presently has a thriving private counseling practice with an average of twenty-six hours per week, vested into both virtual and physical sessions.

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