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8 Reasons to Overcome Your Fear of Asking for Help

By Gay Falkowski

Grocery shopping, babysitting, cooking, cleaning, driving to the doctor, doing chores, transporting kids — these are just some of the ways friends and family members can (and often do) help their loved ones manage life with MS. But, asking for help isn’t always easy.  Those needing help may worry about:
  • Overstepping friendship or relationship boundaries
  • Appearing too needy
  • Imposing on others 
  • Revealing they don’t ‘have it all together’ 

While friends and family members may have a desire to help their loved ones, they may hold back because they don’t know what needs to be done or how to go about offering assistance. Sometimes they have their own worries. They may wonder, for instance, if they’ll offend someone who would rather try to be self-sufficient. 

In reality, offering help and asking for help usually benefits everyone involved. Here are eight reasons you should overcome your fears or worries about asking for help:

1) When you don’t ask for help, not only do you assume all of a burden that might easily (and gladly) be shared, but you also deprive those who’d love to assist you of the opportunity to do so. Everyone has different gifts to share – time, talent, connections, insights, experience, skills, resources, and hospitality. Most people enjoy sharing them!

2) Both the giver and receiver of help benefit in different ways. Giving others the opportunity to make a difference can help them feel more comfortable when they need to ask for help themselves. You can be proud of setting a good example for others to follow. 

3) In western cultures that value self-sufficiency, asking for help can be perceived as a sign of weakness. Actually, it can take quite a bit of strength to acknowledging you can achieve more with the support of others. Become more accepting of yourself by recognizing your strengths and celebrating them. When you’re aware of your positive characteristics, judgment, or rejection from others affects you less. 

4) Not only do we overestimate how much of a burden we are, we also overestimate how often others will reject our request for help. In one study, people estimated how many people they would have to ask for help before they got the outcome they desired. They estimated twice as many individuals as they actually needed. When we focus on ourselves, we forget many people don’t deny requests for help because they feel awkward doing so (or genuinely want to contribute).

5) You can increase your odds of getting help if you’re specific about what you need. People respond much more positively to direct and specific requests because they like to have something concrete to base their actions on. A well-formulated request is SMART: Specific, Meaningful (why you need it), Action-oriented (ask for something to be done), Real (authentic, not made up), and Time-bound (when you need it).

6) You can overcome the fear of ‘owing’ others by being the first to offer help. What skills do you have that others may find useful? The desire to repay help appears to be hard-wired in humans, according to experiments by neuroscientists. The ‘norm of reciprocity’ is so powerful that you can generally expect help if you’ve helped others. Many people find that it’s much easier to reconcile asking for help when they’ve been helpful to others in the past.

7) Unmet needs tend to be easier to meet in the early stages. Little problems can become huge problems in a short amount of time. Which is all to say, the amount of help you need may be less the sooner you reach out. You’re doing your friends and loved ones a favor if you don’t procrastinate the ‘ask.’ 

8) The bottom line is, most of the time, asking for help makes other people feel good and it makes you feel good.