How to Ask for Help

Three Parts:Accepting that you Need HelpReaching out for HelpTaking Help Graciously

Asking for help can be surprisingly hard, even when it's only for some minor difficulty. Doing so is an admission that you aren't perfect, which can lead to feelings of weakness or inadequacy. Yet, it's a vital life skill. Many of life's obstacles can't be tackled alone - we simply don't live long enough to learn how to do everything on our own. Whether you're looking for a little assistance with a homework assignment or seeking treatment for a serious disease, asking for help is the first step towards positive progress. Get started with Step 1 below or check out the sections listed above for more specific advice.

Part 1
Accepting that you Need Help

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    Tell yourself that you need help. Often, this first step is the hardest part of the entire process. While it sounds simple, it can be truly difficult to swallow your pride and accept that you can't solve this problem on your own. Tell yourself that you need help - you might even want to try saying it out loud if you're having trouble convincing yourself. If you can't seem to stir yourself to action, try asking yourself the following questions. If you find yourself answering "yes," you probably need help.
    • "Have I already tried to solve my problem, without success?
    • "Am I unsure of how to proceed?"
    • "Am I worried about how things will turn out?"
    • " Will bad things happen if I don't solve this problem?"
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    Figure out what exactly you need help with. Once you've convinced yourself you need help, you need to pinpoint the exact problem. This will both make it easier to ask another person for help and easier for you to communicate to this person what the problem is. Sometimes this process is remarkably simple - if you can't remember your lines for the school play, it's easy to articulate this to the director. However, complex emotional issues can be tricky to pin down. If, for instance, you're unhappy but you're not sure why, you may feel hopeless. Narrow your problems down as best as you can. Ask yourself questions like the following:
    • "At what point in the process do I first experience difficulty?"
    • "When do I seem to get most frustrated?"
    • "Is there some part of this process that I fear?"
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    Look for someone that can help. Though you may be surprised by the willingness of strangers and casual acquaintances to help you, you should probably pick someone who's well-qualified to give the help you're looking for. Sometimes, this may be a friend, other times, a professional. Sometimes it can even be both. For instance, if you've decided that you need help getting in shape, asking one of your friends to be your workout buddy and seeking out a trainer at your local gym are both valid, sensible options.
    • Don't ask a jerk for help unless s/he is your only option. You don't want to bother with someone who will make you feel stupid for asking.
    • If you need help with an emotional issue, it can be handy to talk to a very close friend, significant other, or family member, even if they don't have any special qualifications.
    • If the problem you need help with is serious or you feel like you can't ask someone close to you for help, confide in a counselor or psychologist. These professionals exist to help normal, sane people like you - you're not crazy just for talking to someone about your problems.
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    Maintain a positive self-image. Asking for help is not a reason to feel weak, inadequate, or stupid. Remember, seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength, not of weakness. It's easy to deny you have a problem. It's hard to put aside your pride in an effort to fix it. As you seek help, you might feel bashful or embarrassed. Don't be, even if you're not seeking help for the first time. Think of it this way: asking for help isn't as embarrassing as failing at whatever's giving you difficulty.
    • If the problem you're seeking help for is some aspect of a team project (whether at work, school, or elsewhere), you're letting your team down by not seeking help. Remember that you're not the only one affected if you refuse to seek help. You're being an admirable team member by seeking help.

Part 2
Reaching out for Help

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    Swallow your pride. Pride is the cardinal sin when seeking help. When you ask for help, you have to admit (explicitly or implicitly) that you can't do something on your own. It's an acknowledgement that you have your own personal faults and struggles. Remember that it's not a big deal! No one's perfect - everyone needs help at some point or another. Going through life without ever admitting you're wrong is no way to live - people who are too proud to ask for help have to rationalize their stubbornness through increasingly complicated internal justifications. Don't be like them - suck it up and ask..
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    Ask someone for help. This is it! The most likely outcome is that you'll be surprised at how willing this person is to help you. If you don't know this person well, introduce yourself briefly and make it clear that you need help. If it's urgent, introductions can wait until later. Explain politely, quickly, and clearly that you need help. Then, if they're willing to give it, explain what you need help with.
    • If this person is a friend, family member, or significant other, you have nothing to worry about! Asking for help is a normal, everyday interaction between people who care for each other. Your willingness to ask for help (and give it back, when it's asked of you) is a sign of your closeness and intimacy. Asking for help can even be an affectionate gesture.
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    Go somewhere else to talk. If your problem is a physical, practical one (for instance, if you can't figure out how to repair your refrigerator), rather than an emotional one, it's often more useful to watch your helper fix the problem than to try to remember their verbal advice. If you can, take your helper to the problem situation and allow them to show, rather than tell you how to fix it.
    • Even if your problem isn't a physical or practical one, a change of scenery can be necessary. Personal emotional problems, for instance, aren't best discussed in cramped train cars or in your cubicle where someone can overhear. To avoid extreme awkwardness, discuss any serious problems you need help with in a private place.
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    Watch and listen to your helper. Whether your problem is a practical one or a personal one, pay attention to your helper as they guide you through how to solve it. Don't be afraid to take notes as they explain or demonstrate how to fix your problem - if, for example, they're helping you jump start your car, you should make note of the order you should attach the alligator cables to each car's terminals. Remember, the better you're able to remember how to solve your problem, the less likely you are to need to ask for help again.
    • If you don't understand part of your helper's instructions, don't be shy about asking them to elaborate or re-explain. It's better that you take the extra time to fully understand their instructions rather than rushing ahead and encountering more problems, which will, in turn, cost you more time.

Part 3
Taking Help Graciously

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    Thank your helper. The person who helped you deserves your thanks. Everyone's time is precious - the fact that they gave you some of theirs shows that they're compassionate and care about you. At the very least, give your helper a hearty "thank you." If they helped you with something major, consider buying them drinks, dinner, or even a gift. It's usually not necessary to be too extravagant - it's much more important to show that you're sincerely grateful. They'll appreciate it immensely and they'll be more likely to help you out in the future.
    • One of the best ways to show you appreciate someone's advice is to help them in return. If they need help with something, offer your help immediately. If not, just be open to helping them in the future.
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    Internalize your helper's advice. Now that your helper has taught you how to work through your problem, take steps to ensure you remember what they taught you. Make a mnemonic to remember their advice if it can be divided into a few steps.
    • One great trick is to try writing you helper's advice out in your own words. By reinterpreting their instructions in a way that's logical and sensible to you, you'll make it easier for you to understand while simultaneously reinforcing the information.
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    Try to solve your problem yourself. It's time to put your new knowledge to the test. As soon as you get the chance, try to work through your problem yourself. If possible, try doing it with your helper present to correct any mistakes you make, but if not, don't fret - doing it by yourself is better than not doing it at all. Make note of any aspects of the process that still give you trouble - you can ask for clarification on these steps later.
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    Don't be afraid to ask for help again. If asking for help the first time isn't a sign of weakness, it definitely is the second time, right? Wrong. If you're learning an entirely new process, there's a good chance you'll forget something along the way when you try to reproduce your helper's advice. If you listened carefully and did your best to replicate you helper's instructions, this might not even be your fault - your helper might just be a bad teacher. S/he might have offered you incomplete or confusing advice. S/he might have incorrectly assumed you possessed certain knowledge necessary to solve your problem. Whatever the case, there's no shame in asking for clarification on tricky particulars.
    • Sometimes, second opinions are necessary. If you can't seem to find success by following your first helper's advice, ask someone else who has a different perspective on your problem. You might be surprised at the varied, even contradictory advice you receive from different helpers!


  • Appreciate the help you receive even with a Thank You.
  • Don't feel bad afterwards
  • Realize that other people need help as well.
  • Accept that everyone has problems. And that you need help with yours.
  • If they don't respond right away, don't start saying "Hello?" or "I need help now!" because that will make them less likely to want to help you.
  • Be aware of your surroundings so you can make the most of things.
  • Know that you don't have to apologize.
  • Start by asking people who are close to you(friends, family...).


  • If it's a medical emergency for a companion, call emergency services before finding someone to help.
  • If it is a medical emergency, get to the nearest medical facility and get assistance in getting there if needed.
  • Depending on what it is, don't try to do it alone if there is risk of injury or a time constraint.
  • Avoid asking anyone who seems untrustworthy. Most people are perfectly safe, but occasionally a person may be dangerous. This goes for anyone, not just a suspicious looking person.

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