*Do you find it hard to ask for help?

Why is it hard to ask for help?

Asking for help may come across naturally to some people but for many of us, asking for help is one of the hardest things to do. The reasons are deeper than feeling shy or awkward:


  1. We are hardwired to do things on our own and be independent
  2. We do not want to be ashamed of our situation
  3. Fear of being perceived as needy or incompetent
  4. Feel that people have their own worries to take care of, so yours are not as significant

Research in Neuroscience:

  1. Asking for help can trigger feelings of uncertainty, risk of rejection, the potential for diminished status and autonomy
  2. These feelings activate the same brain regions as physical pain
  3. Uncertainty can also feel like failure or error in our brains

Family of Origin and Past Experiences:

  1. The family we grew up in is where we learn to become who we are (sense of self) and have significant influence on the development (or under-development) of our self-reliance and the confidence to ask for guidance and support
  2. Past experiences with significant people in our lives will reinforce our belief that it is ok/safe to ask for help and help is available or no one will answer a call for help

How to Ask for Help

Contrary to popular belief, asking for help is an act of courage not a sign of weakness. The ability to engage the support and help of others is an essential skill for good mental health.

Heidi Grant, a social psychologist and author of the book “Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You,” recommend the following steps:

  1. Make sure the person you want to ask realises you need help. Do not assume or imply.
  2. Make clear to the person understands your desire for his/her help. To address points 1 and 2, it is important that you ask clearly.
  3. Be specific with your request (a task or action) and ensure the person understands why you are specifically asking for his/her help (and not someone else). This clarity can make your helper feel invested and want to help rather than feeling obligated
  4. Make sure that the person you are asking has the time and resources to help. Ask the right person and not just anyone. After you have received the help you asked for, do not forget to show gratitude

Additional Points:

  1. Do your homework – find out if there is another way to get the information (e.g. instruction manual, policies….)
  2. Prepare your question/s (be clear, direct, specific and respectful) and rehearse. Emulate someone you admire.
  3. Do not cross the line – ensure what you are asking is within the parameter of the relationship
  4. Frame your question in a way that the person do not feel trapped or cornered or guilty. Allow the option of saying Yes or No
  5. Take “No” for an answer graciously, not personally.









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