“The best advice I can give anyone going through a rough patch is to never be afraid to ask for help.”  ~ Demi Lovato

When I have a toothache, I get help from my dentist. My CPA helps prepare my income tax return.  And if my car has a dead battery, I call for roadside assistance.  It’s kind of a no-brainer to ask for help when we’re going to be paying for the service provided.  But what if I need help with a work assignment, or advice about a relationship?  Why is it easier for some people to ask for help than for others?  Is it essentially a gender difference, like the stereotypical male who won’t ask for directions?  Could it be a control issue?

Let’s say you’ve been assigned a project at work and you can’t figure out how to get started.  Instead of asking your boss for clarification, you simply stall, postpone it, and then feel like a jerk when she asks you how it’s coming along.  What’s really going on here?  Are you afraid of looking incompetent?  Why can’t you simply admit to your boss that you’re having difficulty?

And what if you’ve gotten yourself into a ton of credit card debt, with bill collectors calling you night and day?  Why do you avoid answering the phone?  Are you embarrassed?  Have you considered making an appointment with a credit counselor?

There are about a thousand ways to ask for help without seeming dumb, weak, or needy.   For starters, choose the best person to ask for the specific help you need.  If you want to know how to set up a spreadsheet, chances are your grandma won’t be the first person you ask.  And if you’re looking for an emergency babysitter, I’d definitely shy away from your reclusive neighbor.  When you ask for help, be specific, don’t beat around the bush, and make sure to allow room for the other person to decline.  Consider this:  instead of making a demand, try making it reciprocal.  “If you are willing to spend a couple of hours with me sorting through my messed-up budget, I’ll happily take your kids to the park for an afternoon.”

If you are asking for a loan, one of the most difficult things to conjure up the nerve to do, make sure the lender understands your intent to repay.  Make that request in private, and face-to-face.  The fact that you’re in a bind doesn’t make you a bad person.  Remember that you’re not the first person in the history of the universe to be in that situation.

Even if you’re the boss, you cannot possibly do everything yourself.  And I’m not talking about delegating menial tasks here; I’m talking about genuinely admitting you need help.  What makes us vulnerable also makes us human.  And humans need to be able to ask for help from time to time.

And if you’re fortunate enough to find yourself on the receiving side of a request for help, be generous.  It’s a good feeling.