Asking Help For Dummies


Helping someone out is relatively easy. However, asking for help is seen by many as much more difficult. Imagine this situation: you broke your leg and anything you do takes a lot longer. After a whole day at work, walking around with crutches, you get home exhausted. There is nothing in the fridge, you don’t have any change to pay for food to be delivered and you are thinking about going to bed after eating a piece of dry toast. Would you help your friend if they were feeling like this?  Would you cook them a meal and bring it to them? I bet you would. But if it were you in this situation, would you ask for help? Or would you go for the piece of toast?

Usually, we seem to think that asking for help is a no-go. Probably it has something to do with our individualistic society (which leads us to think things like: I should be able to do this by myself / I should not depend on other people). It is almost as if asking for help makes us ashamed about ourselves. And even though I often feel the same way, come to think of it, this strikes me as strange.

Because, first of all, it is usually a nice experience to help someone out. Cleaning your own house kind of sucks, but helping someone else clean their house (especially when you do it together) is much more fun. The same holds for doing chores, or gardening. It gets even better when another person asks you for help on a topic that you are really good at. At home, I am stuck with a strange configuration of dvd-players, hard disc recorders, amplifiers and all of them don’t work properly because they are not connected to each other in the right way. If I would ask my nephew who has a thing for electronics to come and take a look at my non-functioning appliances, he might have a nice challenge ahead of him, or he would be finished within 10 minutes. Either way, he would feel necessary, valued and able of solving a problem, and I would really be helped and feel thankful.

So, why don’t I ask for help more often? Why don’t I admit to myself and others that I am just not good with numbers, or electronics and that I can use a hand there? In order to help myself out of this situation, I have been thinking about some insights that might help me understand this situation, and to turn it around into a situation where I can ask for help if I need it. There are three things I think are important here:

  • Before you ask for help, you have to accept that you need help. If you don’t, it becomes really hard to appreciate the help you get, and the helping-situation can get ugly. There’s two things that might happen if you don’t accept the fact that you need help. First of all, you might become very cranky if someone tries to help you out. If you ask for help, but you at the same time resent the fact that you need it, there is no way that you will have fun in this helping situation, and the helper does not feel valued. On the other hand, don’t OVER-thank the person that lends you a hand. When I help out, I like hearing that the help is appreciated very much. Twice. And after the second time, any apologies or thanks gets annoying. And after the 5th time, I might not come back a second time to help out. I am not helping you to make you feel guilty or ashamed. So, please don’t point that fact out to me all the time.
  • Be clear about what it is exactly that you want to be helped with. If you are not clear, people will step over your boundaries. A cry for help usually makes people kind of enthusiastic to come to the rescue. And within a couple of seconds you will find the kindest of helpers going through your closet to clear out your new clothes, going to the shop to buy stuff you don’t need, or sitting down to have a good talk, while all you wanted was for someone to walk your dog twice a day for a few days, until you are back on your feet from having the flue. So, if you are clear in what kind of help you need it is easier to let the helpers really be helpful.


  • Ask different things to different people. Some of your friends are talkers, others are doers. If you are in need of a drill and someone to work it, don’t ask your talker-friends. The job most probably won’t get done to your satisfaction. On the other hand, if the do-er steps in, let them do the job before you start talking about the predicament that you are in. It also is wise to ask people you like to help you out. If you have a neighbor that you cannot stand that offers to walk your dog twice a day, you have to talk to her twice a day. So, it might be better to ask her to do something where you don’t have to meet all the time. On the other hand, sometimes you just don’t have enough helpers around, and then you have to accept what you get. Then, the first point (accepting the fact that you need help) becomes really important again.

So, I hope this helps you to ask more help! Do you recognize these feelings of shame when you need help? Or are you someone who asks for help very easily? Let me know in the comment box belowe what you think about this subject!

Ellen is a passionate and practical happy living expert. She teaches subjects like ‘Consumerism’ and “Social Innovation’ at Tilburg University and has her own coaching company to help people find their sparkle again. As a life-coach, she tickles people into changing. As a teacher, she invites students to think outside the box. As a person, she is always trying to find ways to live more consciously, happy and light. And she gets really happy if she can share this with people! Her articles are about her own life, about the way she sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails in changing small things (that eventually might make a big difference). She will share with you her lessons learned, mistakes made and successes achieved when it comes to happy living. You can find more information about Ellens coaching company on her website and you can find more articles written by Ellen (in Dutch) on her blog.