How to Ask for Help

Do you have a hard time asking for help?

As Women on Fire, asking for help is an essential life skill, like learning your ABCs. And let’s face it, these past couple of years have been tough. We can all use help with something.

Yet most of us admit we aren’t so great at asking for help.

Writer Agapi Stassinopoulos, who is better than anyone I know in asking for help, once shared with me her philosophy:

“It was something that my mother taught me … to simply ask people in a gracious way for whatever I might want from them. I am ruthless. I will ask for anything. I see a nice person and I ask, ‘Do you mind helping me?’ Nine times out of 10 they are very happy to help.”

The hardest part about asking for help is fear of rejection.

You have to believe you are worthy.

It might help to remember:

The Answer is YES

I put my own advice to the test on a cross-country flight after a drunken, vulgar-mouthed man plopped down in the window seat next to me.

At first, I tried to simply ignore his crudeness, swearing, and wild attempts to engage me in conversation, including calling me “baby.”

Next, I considered silently slipping a note to the flight attendant, but I stopped myself. I realized this was situation where I needed to take real action and ask for help because there would be a price to pay for not asking — a rough and uncomfortable five hours.

So, I unbuckled my seatbelt, walked to the front, and told the flight attendant about the man.
“I need your help.” I explained.

The crew sprang into action, and I was quickly moved to another seat.

I had been concerned about the man’s reaction. I didn’t want to humiliate him publicly (even though he deserved it), nor did I want to put out anyone else by changing seats. Fortunately, my request for help was handled professionally by the flight attendants. The man did make derogatory comments when I moved, but he was instructed to sit in his seat and stop speaking. Surprisingly, he complied.

Like most everything, the more you practice asking for help, the better you will become at it.

One strategy for developing the skill is to consider right now: What do you need help with? Who can you ask? How will you approach them? (Remember Agapi’s mother’s suggestion about being gracious.) If they say no, how will you react? And then who will you go to next to ask?

Please share with me a time you asked for help and received a surprise or benefits beyond what you ever expected. We all learn from each other’s courage. Happy asking!


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