How to Ask for Help Without Being Too Dependent

  • Someday Lesson: Asking for help doesn’t make you weak but remember that you are stronger than you think and are capable of doing a lot of things on your own.

Midiman on Flickr.comIn her song Piece of Me, Britney Spears has the line: now she’s too fat, now she’s too thin which is a great condemnation of our society’s obsession with extremes. And it’s not just size we’re obsessed with – when it comes to asking for help it seems that there are only two types of people in the world: those who are too independent or the completely co-dependent crowd.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

We can find a balance between the two extremes and it doesn’t have to be difficult. As long as we remember a few things, we can find the sweet spot.

  1. People in your support network like to help. They love you and want you to succeed.
  2. Knowing what help you need and being able to ask for it shows strength, not weakness.
  3. When we help others, we feel like better human beings. Why deny others the chance to feel the same way?
  4. It’s okay to make mistakes. No one expects you to be perfect. Allow yourself the chance to screw up royally – it’s a great learning experience.
  5. As much as your supports love you, they also have their own lives and challenges. Balance out your requests with offers of help and don’t ask for more help until you’ve helped someone else.
  6. You’re stronger than you think. Inside most people feel like mushy weaklings when in reality we’re capable of amazing accomplishments – including you!

To help find that sweet spot, I got the Lab Rats to ask for some help. And after doing so I asked them to tell me how it felt. This is what they said:

Cat (who asked a friend to help her keep to her studying schedule):

It was….humbling. To have to actually sit down and ask for it directly, rather than just hint at it. Having to ask someone for help made me put off doing this exercise. It did help to offer something, though I’m not sure it was something that needed to be offered, given the relationship and the request.

Brett (who asked his wife for help organizing and renovating the house):

I was a little nervous also.. silly since we’ve been together 10 years now… It was a relief though. This was the first time that I said out loud that I was struggling and I really really asked for help. The words even sounded strange as I spoke, after having heard them so many times in my head, to actually hear them spoken…

Jim (who asked his partner Heidi for help on following through on actions):

I hesitated about asking for help, as I’ve always felt it was a sign of weakness to not have all the answers, to not learn how to do it all myself. I never held anyone else to this standard, just myself. The ridiculousness of this point of view is obvious, but that doesn’t diminish its power.

I was afraid Heidi might view me as weaker, unstable, and imperfect. I was afraid she’d feel less of me for expressing my doubts and needing assistance to evaluate and maintain my commitments.

Their reactions didn’t surprise me for highly independent people. So many of us are so sure that we’re loser weaklings if we need help. Or that we’re taking advantage of people if we reach out to them. But as you can see by the reactions – that’s not the case at all – everyone the Lab Rats reached out to was honoured and happy to help!

Cat:

[She reacted] very positively. Turns out she’s studying for [the same exams] too. So, now I have a study-buddy of sorts, dependent on how our schedules mesh, though I imagine there will be a lot of solo-studying as well.

Brett:

She was relieved, happy, glad that I trusted her with such a task. It turns out that she has been wanting to help after seeing my anguish, but didn’t know whether to say anything or not. She was overjoyed to be giving something back as she gathers a lot of her strength from me.

We had a long discussion well into the night… It kicked off after watching the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which ran late enough on it’s own). We started discussing that and it lead to all sorts of revelations and admissions. By the morning a great weight had been lifted from both our minds and we had big smiles, despite our tiredness from the late hour.

Jim:

[She reacted] with a smile. If anything, she said she felt more connected to me when I voice my fears. It shows that I’m not perfect, that I’m human. She believes in me, and is patient with my dream. She suggested that I get a tutor or mentor to drive me a bit, to hold me accountable as well. I hadn’t even considered that. I was just (as always) going to figure it out myself.

When I asked her: “What if this isn’t what I really want? What if, in a year, I decide this isn’t my path?” her answer was “So what? As long as you find a way to create… to let that out. It doesn’t matter how.” That’s the answer to the question I didn’t realize I was asking. I was lost in the details.

In my own life, I get so worried that I’m taking advantage of people that I tend to clam up and try to push through things on my own when in reality I have a HUGE support network who want me to succeed and want to help me as much as I want to help them.

How about you? Do ask for too little or too much help?

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10 thoughts on “How to Ask for Help Without Being Too Dependent

  1. Joely Black says:

    I am legendary for never asking for help, and getting myself into deep smegola as a result. My PhD examiners were shocked to learn that I didn’t ask for support when my life collapsed in the middle of my thesis. I used to take the line that I needed to demonstrate that I was independent and capable of coping.

    When everything went haywire last month, it took a friend to convince me that I should ask for help on my blog. It was a very weird experience, having hundreds of people suddenly offering me support and assistance any way they could.

    Joely Black´s last blog post..The value of living different lives

  2. Andy Hayes says:

    I’m right behind Joely in the “no help needed here” queue! I hate asking and feel quite vulnerable when someone is helping – as if I’ll owe them in gratitude forever.

    But Alex is totally right…and if you want to take it a step further, if you see someone struggling, why not offer them some help (as subtly as you can). They might not even realise they need it!

    Andy Hayes´s last blog post..Great Wine & Sunshine: California’s Livermore Valley

  3. Wow, this is a really good one! It’s so necessary to have a balance in everything and even when it comes to asking for help. You don’t to be too dependent and you don’t want to be too independent. I tend to avoid asking for help sometimes, but I think I could benefit a lot if I asked more often. Love how you mentioned Britney’s song! 😉

    Positively Present´s last blog post..ray-bans and rainbows: seeing life through a happy lens

  4. Alex Fayle says:

    @All
    I wonder if we entrepreneur types have no-help tendencies because we’re so independent by nature. But since the greatest success comes from finding the right people to help us in the right way, knowing how to ask for help is a good skill to have…

  5. Andy Hayes says:

    @Alex – Quite possibly. Although on the contrasting side, when you DO ask for help, I’ve found the entrepreneurial community springs into action within seconds to pitch in and help out. Much more so than in other circles.

    Andy Hayes´s last blog post..Interview: The Future is Red

  6. I probably don’t ask for help as often as I should. When I do, I sometimes try so hard not to impose that it’s not always obvious that I am in fact asking for help, and as a result, I don’t always receive it.

    I’ve found that when I am clear as to what type of help I need, why I need it, and when, I am much more likely to get it.

    Janet Barclay´s last blog post..A Little Housekeeping

  7. Alex Fayle says:

    @Andy
    That’s so true, which surprises me that we still resist asking for help…

    @Janet
    That’s so me! I think clearly knowing what you need and how to articulate it makes asking for help much easier for everyone.

  8. […] Lesson 8: Asking for Help Cat: Asking for help is still something I struggle with. For the most part, I’m not exactly sure who would be able to help, and also I don’t think what I’m doing right now requires much help. I know when I start writing application essays, I’ll ask for friends (or, perhaps, even my mom! *gasp*) to look them over for me. […]

  9. […] How to Ask for Help Without Being Too Dependent […]

  10. David Chura says:

    Yeah, This is all great, But what happens when your sort of at the age when no one will hire you for work 68, Have many skills eg, driver 1 A, excavator operator, machinist etc. Renovations.
    Now having to live on minimal income, your house is a simple one and your isolated from others.
    Closest community is 25 minutes away. But who can afford to drive there? Except once a week for some groceries.

    Now they do some seismic in the area and your well goes a month later. After your cistern is finally empty. You find your deep well is no longer functioning. You don’t have the funds to do any repairs. The company doesn’t seem to be enthusiastic about helping you. Just because you had an older well. And for what ever the other reasons be.
    Was told a long time ago, it was better to give, I did that, and have chosen now to live by myself with little or no one around so I could do some research, by myself on a subject that has confused many.
    But now every one I help is gone and I have no where to go and without water.
    I go out side to bring in snow to melt. But what good will that do me this coming summer?
    Try living without water and no friends.

    Guess we’ll have to go to the grave dirty!
    Well at least one thing is for certain. We came from the clay and I will blend in, and who will know the difference?
    David Chura
    cma.energy@gmail.com
    306 398 2379

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