When was the last time you asked for help from someone?

Did you cringe as you asked? Did you put off asking for as long as you could? Did you presuppose you knew their answer, so you didn’t want to ask?

It seems women more so than men have issues with asking for help. (Setting aside the driving directions issue, of course.)

Perhaps it’s hardwired into their male psyches to not have an issue with this, but many (most) women I know struggle to ask for help on even the simplest of things.

It’s as if we’re raised thinking we need to be superwomen. The consummate multi-taskers. The I.can.do.it.all.by.myself.thank.you.very.much type of person. Some of us even have trouble asking for help from our spouses or others very close to us.

It’s a bit crazy. We inherently know we can’t do it all, yet we try.

So what are the beliefs that stop us from asking for help? Well, they’re numerous and can be different for everyone. But there are some common themes:

  • I’ll be bothering them if I ask for help.
  • They’ll say, “no.”
  • I don’t want anyone to know my business.
  • I don’t want people to think I can’t hold it all together.
  • They’ll think I’m a failure (or weak).
  • I just don’t like asking for help; I prefer to give help.

Sound familiar? In reality, these internal objections are simply stories we’ve learned to tell ourselves about asking for help. It could be that you’ve had negative experiences when asking for help. But just because you may have had someone tell you to stop bothering them, roll their eyes when you asked for help or berated you for looking for assistance, that’s no reason to stop asking! You’re no less worthy of help than anyone else.

And if you’re raising a child with special needs, getting help may be a vital part of keeping things running smoothly day-to-day.

So just how do you go about asking for help without choking?

  1. Realize that those folks you see as successful probably have no trouble (now) asking for help. Learn from that.
  2. Understand that most (alas, not all) people like to help. They just might not know how to or what you might need. That’s why asking makes it easy for them to say, “yes!”
  3. Be clear about what you need. Have a specific request in mind, such as, “I need you to watch my child while I go grocery shopping for one hour.” That’s a clear request that provides definite parameters, which can now be negotiated on.
  4. Be clear about whom you need help from. If you’re raising a child on the autism spectrum, you probably don’t want to ask the 12-year-old down the street to watch him while you go shopping. But you could ask your next-door neighbor who’s spent a lot of time with your child and knows what to do if things go awry.
  5. Make helping easy. Using the above shopping example, have activities lined up that the neighbor can do with your child in your absence so she/he isn’t casting about trying to figure out what to do.
  6. Be gracious. As you know, people don’t have to help, so when they do let them know you’re grateful for the time they’re spending doing what you’ve asked. (Just don’t go overboard.)
  7. Accept a “no” nicely. Not everyone will help and even people who would like to might not be able to accommodate you when you ask. That’s OK. Just don’t be attached to the outcome of your request. Allow them the latitude to feel fine saying no.
  8. Which brings up an important point. If you think you’ll need a lot of help, solicit it from a number of people; don’t rely on one or two or you’ll burn them out.
  9. Support them when you can. It’s easier to help someone who lends a hand, too. That’s simply human nature. So give back when it’s feasible.

Take that deep breath and ask for the help you need. You might just find it gets easier over time. Even if it doesn’t, at least you’ll be getting the assistance you need.