This post is by Heather Caliri, regular contributor to The Happiest Home and blogger at A Little Yes. Heather writes about saying “yes” to little things that scare us. You can read all her posts here.
“You guys need some help while you’re moving?” my friend Abi asked last October.
It was one of the craziest months in my life: we disassembled our entire house, packed it into a storage unit, moved into temporary housing, and prepared for a six-month family sabbatical in Argentina. My three- and six-year-olds were reacting predictably to all the chaos. Heck, I was reacting predictably to all the chaos.
If I ever needed help, that was the time. If a friend were going to help, it would be Abi: she and I have been playing backup for each other since our first kids were six months old.
You know what, though? Even though I was at the end of my rope, even though she was offering, I still hesitated to say yes.
That’s when I realized how deep my aversion to needing people is.
I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this vulnerability. In a culture where independence has its own holiday, feeling ‘needy’ cuts against the grain. Brené Brown says we often have a double standard with vulnerability: we see it as courage in others, but inadequacy in ourselves.
By that logic, we’ll never be courageous unless we can ask for help.
Lately, I’ve been practicing. And I’ve found it helps I think through my shakiness before I ask. Reviewing my beliefs about the help I need, the person I’m asking it of, and what will happen if they say no has made asking less scary for me.
So how do you mentally prepare?
- Turn the tables. If someone came to you with the same request, how would you react? When I put myself in the other person’s shoes, I realize I’d feel pleased to be needed. Even if I said no to someone, I would likely do it gracefully.
- Expect the best of others. If I poke down into my fear, I realize I’m not thinking that highly of others. I’m assuming they’ll be put out, judgmental, or uncaring. Often, I’m thinking such things about the people closest to me. Asking for help means trusting that others will be generous and kind.
- Expect the worst of the situation. Think honestly about what “no” will feel like. It never feels great, but it’s rarely catastrophic. There are other friends to depend on, other contacts to make. Plus, the more you ask, the less one “no” stings.
- Think about what’s in it for them. Those who help you get all the good feelings that generosity offers. They could ask a favor in return. They develop their chops, their expertise, and their network. The New York Times did an article earlier this year about a professor of organizational psychology, Adam Grant, whose astoundingly prolific and successful career is due to his obsession with helping others.
- Give others a chance to shine. A while ago, our family hosted a group at our house for dinner every week. At first, I exhausted myself by cooking everything. After a while, I (shakily) asked others to help. Not only did this lessen my burden, but I found that people were more involved and committed to the group as a whole.
- Make space for generosity. In the past, I hesitated to ask for help because I felt frazzled when others needed me. I was busy; I was overscheduled; I was at the end of my rope. As I’ve learned to quiet my own life, to take care of myself, and to keep our schedule sane, I’ve found there’s more space for generosity and hospitality.
- Set a timer. Sometimes, asking help scares me, no matter how much I mentally rehearse. Lately, I’ve taken to giving myself a deadline–and just asking when the buzzer rings. You know what? The anticipation of asking is always worse than the moment itself. And the exhilaration I feel for being brave is mine to enjoy no matter what the answer is.
Asking for help is starting to feel like a superpower. It connects me to people I admire. It creates space in my life where there once was stress. It’s deepening my relationships. And it makes me feel brave, intentional, and honest.
In the moment Abi offered me help, I felt terrible that I was so averse to accepting. But let me tell you a secret: like a lot of skills, asking for help takes practice. It gets immeasurably easier the more I try.
And unlike a lot of things that take effort, there’s a guarantee: practicing this skill will—by definition—help you.
Where in your life do you need support? How can you practice asking for help today?
Photo Courtesy Erwan Bazin