I’ve been hearing for the past few weeks from many people I know that life is difficult and they don’t know how ask for help. They want something, but feel they will not be able to get it. This tends to be true when what they need must come from someone else. There are just times when we all need a little help. But when things get tough, it can be particularly difficult to ask for it. We’ve all been rejected or denied something we really needed, so may not have any reason to think this time will be any better. It’s never any fun to be disappointed.  Also, when we need something, there’s usually a price to pay once we get it, however small.

I know a few people who think that asking for help from someone else means they are weak. I also know a lot of people who feel they can do anything best themselves and others simply get in the way. Asking for help may involve other people in our lives and in our problems. This can be embarrassing or uncomfortable. And if you’re really rusty at reaching out and getting your needs met, it will probably be awkward. All of these can get in the way of getting what you want or need.

So what is the best way to ask for help? Determine, first, what it is you need. It may be a supportive and listening ear or it may be a solution to a problem. These are two very different scenarios, but can look very much the same out of context. I like to help solve problems, so I’m likely to do that if I don’t know you want support and understanding because you already have your solution.

Once you know what you need, be as direct as possible in asking for it. In my experience, most of us are not very good at telling others what we need, and then are disappointed because we don’t get it. Make sure the other person actually understands exactly what you are asking of them, and there will be less room for error. When they know what you are asking for, make sure they have agreed to it. In reality, what you want may not be possible or at least not at this time. Try not to make assumptions.

Finally, make sure that you know what the other person may need in return. Some favors require only acknowledgement, and others require much more. Be sure you are willing to respond in an appropriate fashion. Vague agreements can lead to all kinds of future disagreements, and make it difficult to ask for help ever again.

Asking for something from another person is always risky because there’s the possibility you simply won’t get it, and may have some unseen consequences. But we all need other people, and sometimes asking for that will bring us closer together.