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5 Ways to Ask for Help (When you don't know how)

I’m here if you need me.

You know you can reach out anytime.

Let me know how I can help.

We’ve all said things like this with the very best intentions and we’ve heard our friends, colleagues and business contacts say the same thing back to us.

And yet, when we actually could use a little help we’re hesitant to reach out partly because it’s a vulnerable ask especially if the help we need is pulling ourselves out of a funk or getting past strong emotions during a pandemic.

How do you even start the conversation when you’re already overwhelmed, sad or frustrated. You’d like to know you’re not alone without feeling rejected if you don’t get a response. You certainly don’t want to impose on someone and add to their stress levels.

Here are ways to initiate a conversation when you need help, support or just a quick pick-me-up.

5 Ways to Ask for Help When You Don’t Know How 

Revisit a previous experience/conversation. This could be, “Remember the time we went away for that girls’ weekend at the beach? I could really use an escape. I am struggling this week and am grateful for our friendship.” It could also be, “Remember the time you said I should reach out if I was in a funk. I’m in a funk. What I could use most is a distraction. How was that new restaurant you tried last week?” It’s an easy way to take someone up on their offer to let them know you could use a little help.  

Be lighthearted. When a distraction is more of what you need, a lighthearted approach can help you broach bigger topics. For example, “I feel like I haven’t smiled in a week. I could use a good laugh. Any recommendations on shows or movies I should check out?” This is a way to strike up a conversation when there’s no need for an urgent response or assistance. In addition, it provides built in follow-up opportunities to report back on how much you enjoyed the show/movie. Gives you an opportunity to return the favor when you have a recommendation and strengthens a connection you can turn to when you need more immediate help. 

Make a specific ask. When you need a more immediate response, make a specific ask. “I could use some help getting out of my own head. Do you have 10 minutes to talk?” This takes the guesswork out of what you’re asking of them and makes it easier for them to respond and say, “Yes.” If this feels awkward or too forward, just think about how many times you’ve been at a loss when trying to help a friend or a colleague. If you don’t know what action to take it becomes hard to take any action.

Be direct. You might only feel comfortable using this with your closest friends or family, but a direct approach is very effective at getting a response. There’s a sense of urgency or immediacy that comes through when you come right out and say, “I need help.” It leads to action. It also opens the door for that friend/colleague to be just as direct in their response and support. When you drop your guard, they don’t have to tip-toe around the problem or guess your emotional state. 

Give an honest answer to “How are you?” You don’t have to go along with the conversational norm and say you’re “Fine.” “Good.” Or “Great.” when none of those things are true. It’s okay to admit when you’re not okay. Try saying something like “It’s been a frustrating week and I’m having a particularly hard time balancing everything.” Now more than ever people care about how you’re doing. Even if your response doesn’t lead to a long, in-depth conversation it can open the door to a follow-up interaction and support right there in the moment.

If asking for help is a new skill for you, practice saying the words out loud before you type them, text them or say them to others. Also remember that when you show vulnerability, you give others permission to do the same. When you are brave enough to take someone up on their offer to be there for you, you empower them to do the same.

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