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Read this if you find it difficult to ask for help

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Could you help me with this? It’s a simple question that can be very hard to ask. Heavy domestic chores, a complicated project at work, getting lost in a foreign city: it’s all a lot easier with a little help. And you can get it, if you ask for it.

Many of us tend to think for someone else. We think they probably don’t feel like giving a hand, they’re probably busy, or there’s another reason why they can’t or won’t help us. And imagine they feel obligated to do so, or –even worse- say no… It would make you feel like an idiot, right? 

But why? Friends, acquaintances and colleagues –even strangers, by the way- are much more likely to help you than you might think. You may see your request as a burden; for them, it may be a compliment and a proof of confidence. Admitting that you can’t do it all by yourself, can give more depth to your relationships. 

These tips will help you to ask for help like a pro: 

Explain why you ask for it

The word ‘because’ can make a lot of difference. Don’t just ask ‘Could you go and get some groceries?’ but: ‘Could you go and get the groceries, because I have to prepare dinner and I’m short of time’. This way, you legitimate your question, which makes it easier for yourself. And if you explain why you need help, people are more likely to actually assist. This tip supposedly even works if your ‘because’ doesn’t actually make sense…

Be attentive yourself

Make it into a habit to help others, without asking for something in return. Don’t do it to make sure you have some ‘credit’ with them, but simply because it makes you feel good. Of course, you don’t have to do your colleague’s job for them or coordinate your neighbor’s entire relocation – don’t exaggerate – just try to do little things for others every once in a while. Offer to give them feedback on a project plan, make sure there’s coffee once all the boxes are out of the moving truck. Helping others makes you feel less burdened if you need someone to support you. 

Put your questions in perspective 

Turn the situation around and imagine someone would ask for your help. No doubt, you’ve recently held the door open for someone or cleaned the dishwasher because they asked you to. How did you feel about that? Annoyed? Forced? Overcharged? Probably not. I bet you didn’t think twice about it and it made you feel good. Why wouldn’t it work the same way for others? 

Text: Sanne Eva Dijkstra - Photo: Hao Ji