I despise asking for and taking help. Having been blind since birth, you’d think I’d be an expert in accepting help (at least disability-related help)! If you define expert as someone who’s done something often and thought about it a lot, then maybe I am. I did my dissertation study on altruism and a friend made me a wall hanging with “ask” spelled out in braille on it.

However, I’m definitely one of the 70% of people that an executive coach, Nora Bouchard, says could have used help in the last week but didn’t ask for it. As I age and watch friends age and need more help, I think it’s time to turn the spotlight on the fine art of asking for help and maybe rearrange my attitude a teeny bit!

Why are we so reluctant to ask for or even accept help? Pride? The myth of “I can do all things”? Shame when we can’t? Fear of being slimed by patronizing help? Fear of losing control? “More blessed to give than to receive” rings in our ears? Difficulty articulating what we need? Fear of getting “help” we don’t want along with help we do want? All of the above!

It’s easier for me to ask or accept help, if I know I have something to trade, know the giver well enough to know they’re not looking down on me as they reach out, knowing someone else is depending on me to accomplish this chore, or if the ask is a small one.

Using Bookshare, www.bookshare.org I was able to skim through hundreds of books with “help” in the title. Lots of self help titles promising help for everything from training your dog to taming your fears. The three I found the most helpful with their foci on the asking part of the process were:

  • Help Thanks Wow by A. Lamott
  • The Art Of Asking: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Let People Help by Amanda Palmer and Brene Brown
  • Mayday: Asking for Help in Times of Need by M. Klaver

Amanda Palmer is a musician and a performance artist who espouses radical openness in asking and giving help. She’s crowd-funded her recordings and tweeted her fans for all kinds of help for herself and others. She shares her struggles with asking and taking help particularly from her husband. A good read if you’re wanting to be inspired!!

Anne Lamott writes about prayer in such a funny, realistic, approachable way that you hardly realize you’re doing “spiritual” reading. Her first prayer is “Help” which is a great reminder to me that asking my Higher Power for help could be a great place to start!

The Klaver book breaks asking for help into a seven step process. The seven steps are:

  1. Name the need
  2. Give yourself a break (self-compassion and believing you deserve it)
  3. Take a leap (revving up your confidence and faith)
  4. Ask!
  5. Be grateful and gracious whether request is met or not
  6. Listen differently to what you get
  7. Say thanks

Inspired by my reading, I asked my Facebook and Twitter followers for their top tips for how to ask. I got several great replies which tells me I’m not alone in this struggle. Here are my tips from one struggler to another:

  1. Figure out what you need exactly.
  2. Remind yourself you’re not alone; half the people over sixty-five have a disability, so will need disability-related help.
  3. Remind yourself that even Jesus asked His disciples to wait and watch with Him.
  4. Remind yourself that you’re giving a gift by letting yourself be helped because people like to help and somebody has to be the receiver! It’s your turn now!
  5. Reframe (at least in your own mind) or offer a trade: “If you give me a ride, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee”
  6. Strategize how that person can probably most successfully meet it. For example, “point my finger toward the bank building” rather than asking “where is the bank?” and them pointing or saying left when they mean right.
  7. Say a happy “thanks”, not an apology for the need but a strong thanks for meeting it.
  8. Keep helping and asking so the balancing act can go on between helping and being helped.

What you (when you’re in the role of the giver) can do to help:

  • Offer help freely “May I help?” rather than “Do you NEED help?”
  • Point out that you benefit from my company; e.g. “I have to go and would like company. Want to ride with?”
  • Listen to what I ask for instead of dishing out what you think I need.