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Can YOU ask for help? - Aging Well With Marjorie
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Can YOU ask for help?

Can YOU ask for help?

Even though we humans are social beings and genetically programmed to give and receive help, many of us are reluctant to ask for it when we need it. Why is this, and how can we get good at asking for assistance, whether caring for an aging parent or spouse, needing care ourselves, or tackling a difficult project.

Reluctant to ask for help

We may think it is a sign of weakness, particularly in a competitive environment, or feel we would be overstepping a friendship or creating a burden for others if we ask for a helping hand. We may fear losing control of a situation, or think we can do it quicker or do it better ourselves rather than show someone else. At the heart of all of these myths that we tell ourselves is the fear of rejection, but the sky will not fall if we ask for help and are turned down.

The upside of asking for help

You could frame asking for help as providing an opportunity for others to share their skills, time, resources, connections, and caring, and experience the joy of giving. It’s usually true that the person who gives the help gets a bigger dose of feeling good than the person on the receiving end.

Sharing a workload also increases the energy and focus on a task. I also think it’s a sign of strength to be able to ask for assistance, in the way that it opens us to our humanity and vulnerability, and it shows our trust and faith in other people.

Effectively asking for help

LaundryThe first step is to acknowledge that you need help. It’s okay to need help. We’re human!

Then think of all the people you know and trust in your various networks, which can also help connect you to the networks of others. Include children and teenagers as well in your list of potential helpers.

Try to match your request to the skills and interests of others. Who do you know that is people-oriented, who might provide company and comfort? Who is more task-oriented and likes to get things done, from mowing a lawn to washing dishes? Who uses their thinking skills, who might help with taxes, form-filling, and finding information for you?

Be very direct and specific in your ask, and provide a time frame. Not, “Could you cook a meal now and then?”, but “Could you cook four freezable meals next month?”  Not, “Could you help with laundry?”, but “Could you do two loads of laundry next week?”

When someone says “no”

If you never ask, the answer will always be “no”. If you are thoughtful about how you ask and who you ask, chances are very good that people will say “yes”. If you occasionally get a “no”, it’s okay to ask again at another time, but don’t ask for the same thing. Rather, think of something else that they could help with that may be a better fit for them.

Always say “thank you”

 Of course be generous in your thanks, and be specific about the impact that their help has had on you. For example, “I was running out of things to wear, but thanks to you I’ll feel good dressed in clean clothes when people come over”. You might also be in a position to say, “Is there something I can do for you?”, but there is absolutely no need to feel that you must reciprocate.

P.S. If you want to be a helper

Perhaps you know someone who is going through a hard patch. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you” is not likely to elicit a request for help. On the other hand, if you phone once every week or two and ask, “What can I do for you today / this week?”, you’re much more likely to receive a specific request for help.

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