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Why Asking for Help Works

Jonathan Riley

The Only Mistake You Can Make Is Not Asking For Help ~Sandeep Jauhar

Asking for help should be simple, but it is something that many people struggle with, and it often stems from fear. Whether it’s a difficult work project or the stress of parenting, everyone gets overwhelmed at times, yet we still are often resistant to reaching out to others in the hopes that they will help lighten our load. Maybe we are afraid of looking imperfect and that others will think less of us. Or perhaps we are afraid of rejection; we don’t want to be turned down. Other times, we feel awkward about inconveniencing someone else with our problems. And so often it happens that we would rather give help than receive it.

Not asking for help is only natural for some people since they learned to shut down their pleas for help as children from dysfunctional parents. Asking for help as children did not work so they believe the same is true as adults. That means that many struggle doubly hard in asking for help. We cannot allow our aversion to asking for help to get in the way of our chance at wholeness. Making that request, not knowing whether your plea will be rejected, is bad enough. But actually, having to relinquish control and let another care for us can be equally disturbing and uncomfortable.

For many, asking for help is up there on the list of dreaded activities, right alongside the fear of public speaking or going to the dentist. Asking for help can reveal our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Many people believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness; that by asking for help, you are admitting you are inadequate in some way; that you lack knowledge, skill or experience to do something yourself. It can bring up unresolved issues of embarrassment and loss of control. It can test us like no other personal human challenge. Requesting help is so frightening that some of us will still not ask for that helping hand even when faced with death. There are those in the world who would, literally, rather die than let others know they are in need.

Here are some barriers that prevent people from asking for help

  • Thinking a problem will go away by itself
  • Feeling embarrassed or afraid to ask for help
  • Thinking you should be able to cope without help
  • Thinking no one wants to help or will understand
  • Thinking things are not bad enough to seek help
  • Not knowing where to find help
  • Lack of support services
  • Assuming you will be judged
  • Thinking help is too expensive/time-consuming

Here are some benefits of asking for help

  • It can help you make progress and reduce stress. A benefit of asking for help is that other people can help you move forward. If you think about how you could use some help and ask someone who has the proper knowledge, skills, resources, or connections, you increase your chances of learning and making progress. For example, other people might teach you things, give you information, introduce you to other people, and remove obstacles for you.
  • You can gain different and varying insights. For example, the Great Work Study, conducted by the O.C. Tanner Institute, showed that 72% of people who receive awards for their work ask for advice, help, insights, and opinions from people outside of their inner circle. In doing so, those workers generate fresh ideas and perspectives on how to solve problems that they otherwise would not have imagined. In essence, asking for help and advice creates better, stronger, more successful results than not asking for help.
  • It can reduce your sense of loneliness. Helping another person actually makes us feel good – give your friends and family the chance to help you. Sharing your struggles with people you trust and asking for support strengthens your relationships. Although you may not have considered it before, asking for help is a way to show people that you trust their ideas, feel competent in their skills, and cherish their advice.

Asking for help is an important skill to learn and you will use it throughout your life. Practice asking for help with the little things, so you know what to do when the big stuff happens. Remember, no matter how big or small the issue might be, asking for help can also make you stronger, more successful, and more confident.


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