Read below for some information and thoughts on asking for help. Originally this entry was going to be the last in our previously posted series about anger, however, we felt this topic should be featured on its own.
For many, asking for help is difficult. There are many reasons why this may be true.
On the surface may be fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of the unknown. Fear of judgement, stigma, or appearing weak. In our modern society, many men are still raised with the idea that there is something wrong with asking for help when needed. The idea is asking for help makes you appear weak and not “manly.” Many women may also suffer from stigma related to asking for help. They may be seen as helpless, a victim, having less worth, a burden. While these beliefs systems exist and there are those who may judge others when asking for help, often the fears we carry about asking for help may be unfounded. This negative perception that others will have toward us may only be present in our own minds. Being able to recognize when we need help and then ask for it is a sign of great strength.
Another reason asking for, and receiving, help may be difficult is often we are not that good at it. We don’t know where to start. We don’t know how to explicitly state our needs. We may even assume that others know what we need or can tell what we need somehow. Spoiler alert. They usually can’t and when they think they know they do, it may be wrong.
So, what can we do? When asking for help keep the following in mind (The Dos”):
- Do be specific and direct with what you need. Leave out all the fluff. Be truthful and exact in asking for what you need so the person is clear.
- Do make the request personal. Ask in person or at least over the phone. If you can, avoid text, email, third party, letters, etc.
- Do find a way to eventually support that person back. You don’t want to make help transactional (see more about this below), but you can give back when you are ready to do so.
- Do give the person feedback as to effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their suggestions or help. State your appreciation for the help, and if something wasn’t or isn’t going to be helpful, politely state why and what could possibly be changed so it is helpful.
Keep in mind the following (The Don’ts):
- Do not “sell” the help or convince someone. If you have to fluff up the reason for helping you or really push for the help, will the help really be genuine and meaningful? Will the person then feel negative about having to give help? Also, in this category of do nots is explicitly talking about how the help will benefit you. Let the person come to their own conclusions.
- Do not downplay or minimize what you need. As stated above be specific about your request for help and do not be afraid to ask for exactly what is needed. If you do not ask, you will never receive it.
- Do not make it a transaction. No quid pro quo. Do not offer help in exchange for help. Also, do not remind people of what they may “owe” you. If you want to support or give back to the person at a later time that is great! Just don’t make that contingent on receiving help.
- Do not apologize. We often say sorry when asking for help. Do not devalue your request or your worth by making apologies. We all need help sometime. You are not doing anything wrong by asking.
Now that we covered the “how,” we need to know the “where” or “who.” This is another factor that keep people from asking for the help they need. Many times, we may not know who or where we can go for help. Keep in mind that different sources of help may be appropriate for different situations but below are some general suggestions.
- Self-help and other support groups-There are many examples of self help or peer support groups. Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and Rainbows are all examples of support groups. Usually these groups are free or have a nominal fee. Some are prolific and can be found anywhere whereas others may be more limited. Groups like this tend to be comprised of members who have a common goal, issue, or problem they are seeking support for. Members of these groups might have an understanding of your issue and need and provide an interesting perspective. Keep in mind though, everyone’s case is unique and there is no “one size fits all” help that will work for every problem or person.
- Professional help-This may come in the form of doctors, counselors, psychologists, social workers, lawyers, and more. Whatever the problem you may have that you need assistance for, there is probably someone who’s whole profession is to assist with that type of issue.
- Personal relationships/family members-We may be intimidated seeking help from these sources, afraid we may damage the relationship, OR maybe we’ve used these sources for help many times before. Our personal relationships are still a viable source of help. Remember to choose someone who you trust to provide help and feedback that is supportive to you and your recovery. Many times, our friends and family may be good intentioned and appear helpful but they could be enabling our problem or make things worse. For example, if you are angry and need a friend to be supportive and calming, the friend who blindly agrees with you and gets excited with you is probably not the good choice. You want the one who is soothing or may even hold you accountable for behaviors.
- Co-Workers-This can be an underutilized source for, especially if the problem you seek help for is in the workplace.
- Community service agencies-These agencies specialize in providing help whether it be consulting, financial, medical, counseling, and many other ways. The type of help you need depends on who you would call but a good start may be your town/county/state’s social services webpage. Some areas even utilize phone numbers, such as 2-1-1, for information and referrals to community agencies.
- Spiritual practice-You may be able to seek help from your place of worship or spiritual practice. This help can come in many forms but do not underestimate the power of these sources when it comes to help.
- Emergency help-If the issue at hand is an emergency situation dial 9-1-1 or a local crisis line.
For more information or ideas on where to seek help, especially for a mental health or substance use issue, please visit our resources page here.
-Chris Dorian, founder of Know Your Why Recovery
Based on information on information in the following sources:
Anger Management for Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Clients: A Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy Manual. SAMHSA Publication No. PEP19-02-01-001. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019.
Davis, Jeffrey. “4 Tips to Effectively Ask for Help-and Get a Yes”. PsychologyToday.com. Psychology Today. February 28, 2020. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tracking-wonder/202002/4-tips-effectively-ask-help-and-get-yes
Grant, Heidi. “To get through life, we all need to ask for help-here’s how to not do it.” ideas.ted.com. Ted Conferences, LLC. December 10, 2019. https://ideas.ted.com/we-all-need-to-ask-for-help-to-get-through-life-heres-how-not-to-do-it/