If we aren’t the sort whoknows our thoughts or feelings, or how to ask for things? We can call someone, and end up waffling or changing subject, or even asking for what we DON’T want (we want to be listened to only, but go and ask for advice).
Afterwards we feel letdown. And we blame the other person. How could they not see what we need? Or understand us? We promise never to ask for help again. We don’t want to see that we are the one who has to make our needs clear, and ask for what we want.
If there was a genie who would never judge you, and you could ask for anything, what would it be?
Do you want to admit the crazy thoughts in your head?
Someone to listen to you rant and not interrupt or judge?
5. Challenge the idea that you are always rejected.
People are actually more likely to help than not. A study from Stanford University published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people “underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help”.
If we always get rejected by others, it can be because we are actually unconsciously pushing people to reject us. And it’s about learning to ask in a calm, open way instead of:
asking for help in a hostile, bossy way
prefacing our ask with negativity, such as, “I’m sure you don’t want to help, but…”
blaming them in our request “you never want to listen, but I need support”.
[**note that if you feel suicidal, or like you will hurt yourself or someone else, none of this applies. Reach out for help immediately. Call emergency services, a help line, or someone you trust.]
3. If you feel afraid or nervous, keep going.
No matter how much you’ve prepared, if reaching out for support is new for you, you are going to feel uncomfortable and even afraid. And that’s okay.
It’s like the famous book by Susan Jeffers says… ‘feel the fear and do it anyway”. Or the embarrassment, or shame, or whatever it is.
4. Ask first.
If in the past reaching out for support has gone wrong, leaving you feeling rejected? It might be that you surprised someone at a bad time.
There is some wisdom to sending a text or email first. “Are you around to chat? I don’t need advice, I just need someone to hold the space as I rant about a bad experience I had this week. I’d really appreciate it.”
5. Don’t take it personally if someone says no.
People have lives. They might have had an emergency, or actually be busy like they said. Just ask when is a good time.
If they say they can’t be of assistance at this time, remember that they might be having their own difficulties at the moment. It probably isn’t personal.
If words aren’t coming out right, just be honest that it’s hard for you to ask for support. “Bear with me, reaching out for help is new for me.”
Then continue slowly, keeping sentences starting with ‘I’ (I feel/I want) and not veering into ‘you’ (are you really listening? You don’t really want to help, do you…). Note that the latter is blame, and it’s the easiest way to push someone away.
7. Be grateful.
Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. The other person gets to feel useful, to feel connected, to share advice. So you don’t have to end the conversation feeling embarrassed. Just say thank you, and offer your support in kind should they need it.
When in doubt, start with a stranger.
If you really can’t ask for support from someone you know, then don’t. There is nothing wrong with asking for help from strangers.
This can be a forum, although asking for help from others who are feeling unstable themselves isn’t always the best case scenario.
So better yet consider a help line. A trained volunteer who is happy to listen and is unbiased can be a great support (read our list of help lines in the UK).
Try, try again.
What if it doesn’t work out? Yes, it will feel bad. You might feel rejected and hopeless.
But it’s no proof of anything other than that you had a moment of bad luck, or caught someone at an unforeseen bad moment.
So let the thoughts that you are ‘beyond help’ or ‘nobody cares’ dance through your head all they want. Do not let it stop you from trying again.