Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors…

pexels-photo-1457684“Help” is such an emotive word.

If offered, it’s a way of taking the burden off someone. Saying “can I help you” is a proactive way of sharing a problem, giving of your time, passing on advice or experience. It’s an open invitation, without forcing the issue. It’s not a demand. It makes you feel good.

If asked for, though, it can be misconstrued as a sign of weakness. It often takes you to get to a breaking point before you say “I need your help.” Men, in particular, need to be stranded in the middle of the Sahara before they would ask for directions. Reading an instruction manual is only resorted to once all other attempts to make something work has failed.

Yet, as we progress through life we rely on the help of others from the moment we are born. We are completely helpless as a baby, guided through the toddling period by caring parents, nurtured by teachers, mentored by new work colleagues. This help comes without the overt “offer” or “asking” for help. It’s unconditional.

However, imagine how more enriched you would be if you had help on tap. Or more importantly, had the inner confidence to know when you needed help, and the courage to ask for it. New skills could be learned so much more quickly. Problems shared would be problems halved. Relationships would be much strengthened.

During the recovery from my mini-stroke, I stubbornly thought I should stand on my own two feet. Getting better was my responsibility, and I didn’t want to be a burden to anybody. At the same time, I think those around me who wanted to help were equally as nervous about stepping forward, in case they offended me. This merry dance around “help” went on for years.

I’ve come to realise that asking for help is a sign of maturity, not weakness. Not asking, is a weakness. You risk becoming lost or isolated, feeling you can’t cope, carrying the weight of the world unnecessarily on your shoulders, repeating the same mistakes, losing faith in your own ability. That one four-letter word can make the world of difference.

To make an effective request for help, there are a few steps worth considering.

Make sure you understand what you want help with: the more specific the better. Don’t be so vague that the person you approach isn’t sure how they can help, or can’t work out what help you need.

Try to identify the most appropriate source of that help: family, friend, colleague, expert. Don’t trust everything you read on Facebook!

Think about the timing. Will the person you intend to approach have sufficient time to listen to you? Are they in a good mood? Does the location give you the privacy you need.

When raising the request for help, explain what you have already done to deal with the problem. This demonstrates you have made a real effort and are not just dumping on them.

Be someone who genuinely offers help to others. Remember that there is something quite powerful about helping someone in their time of need. This makes asking for help, when you need it, that little bit easier as you’ve seen it from the other side.

Never be afraid to ask for help.

Always be prepared to offer it.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” Ronald Reagan.

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