This weekend, a friend of mine had to move. It’s a decision taken suddenly because of a cracked slab in the house he was renting. I knew several things about his situation. He had moved in less than a year ago but had never completely unpacked. When he moved in, the owner had promised to do some repairs and he was waiting to get everything out of the boxes. A recent shoulder injury meant he didn’t have to lift anything heavy. He didn’t have a new place yet, so I worried how he would cope.
When I initially offered to help, he declined the offer. I ran a business that did residential and international moves, and I know a lot about moving. In addition, as a child, we moved often. I was 31 years old before having lived seven years in a row in the same place. When I know someone is moving, I often offer to help, but people don’t always agree. “I wouldn’t want to bother you is often the answer.” Having moved my office on my own before, I know how difficult it is to move around without help. I also know how difficult it can be to organize things enough to use aids. Sometimes organizational skills are more important than lifting strength.
As a culture, we have a hard time asking for help and accepting it when offered. There are a lot of difficult tasks to do on your own, and when a project is complex, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When I was single, my friends and I had a deal. If any of us needed help, we were there for them. Even though they didn’t ask, we stepped in and helped. If someone complained, “I have to clean the storage shed,” one or two of us would show up, ready to go to work. It can be hard to get rid of things we used to love, and people who have a knack for seeing potential in things that look like trash today can accumulate so much stuff. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. Often, caring for a sick family member, decluttering, or finishing a project that has gone on too long can be done easier and better by a stranger than ourselves.
If you need to ask for help, don’t hesitate. If no one intervenes, there is no reason to feel rejected. It could be that the weekend is busy or that the thing you need help with is overwhelming for them. If your contacts cannot help you, do not hesitate to find someone you can pay to help you. I advise you not to wait until the last minute. The last time I moved my office, I didn’t plan well. By the time I had time to call my friend who does commercial removals, they were all booked. I decided to rent a truck and get help with the move from the labor pool outside Home Depot. The Saturday of the move, I went to Home Depot, and there was no one there. It was just one of the many consequences of my inability to plan. Moving the small office by myself took two days. Since I hadn’t organized my truck in advance, I had to hire a van, which meant I had to do about six trips. The mileage and multiple moves increased the cost of my move. I was so exhausted after the move that I never unpacked everything. I still have three or four boxes hidden in corners and cupboards. Next time I move, I call Joe from the Quality Group.
Before you even ask for help, take the time to organize yourself. If you’re asking for help dropping a car off at the dealership for repairs, schedule the appointment and then figure out if someone’s coming to work. If so, driving to work in the morning is no problem. If a family member is sick and friends offer help, make a care schedule. On carecalendar.org, you can set up a calendar that will help you organize friends to deliver meals and other types of care. Tasks like visiting or sitting with someone, running errands, and bringing food are a big help when a family is trying to care for a loved one. Communicate your food preferences, but understand that not all of your friends will be able to bring you meals from your favorite steakhouse. If I know the recipient, I always try to set aside a time when delivering a meal to visit them. Good company always makes food taste better. I have often participated in this type of help, and it has always worked very well.
Speaking of offering help, I love movies that show a barn being raised. Seeing communities come together to build a barn so quickly amazes me. If you lived in the Greater Baton Rouge area in 2016, you know that after the flood, the need for help far exceeded the availability. I have seen so many people reach out to others. I remember two very well. One was a friend whose house was flooded, but he was unable to enter the area to begin cleanup and repairs. He spent weeks after the flood helping people clean up their homes and begin restoration before he even touched his. The other was a friend who lived in a nearby town and had only inches of water in one of her rooms. Grateful that her damage was minimal, she asked me if I knew where she could come and cook for people who needed meals. I put her in touch with a group organizing teams of people who clean and empty houses. That day, the workers ate well. We sent take-out boxes to those who didn’t leave work to eat. It was good to know that we were fueling the restoration effort.
Why don’t we ask for help when we need it? There are certain things that keep people from asking for help. Fear of judgment or rejection, a desire not to upset others, and feelings of unworthiness are reasons we don’t ask for help.
Sometimes we are afraid that others will see us as weak. People in difficulty often say, “I’m fine. It is possible to ask for help and “it’s okay”. We might also worry about others judging us if we can’t handle things. If we tend to judge others, we will assume that they will also judge us.
There are times when we think we can handle it. The paradox is that even when we can manage it, accepting help can mean we get out of it easier, safer and faster. Many things are difficult to do alone. One that always comes to mind is moving a queen or king size mattress. It is impossible to do it by yourself. If you want to make something difficult easier? Tap into the expertise of others. Someone who’s done it before can save you the trial-and-error error. Asking for advice is a great way to deepen your relationship with someone. When someone advises you, they are part of your success team because they now want you to succeed.
There is always the possibility that the person we ask for help will say no. The fear of rejection often prevents us from asking for help. It’s true. People might say no. Saying no isn’t as likely to affect you as availability. If they reject you, you now have a better understanding of your relationship with that person. It may be a little painful, but it’s still a good thing to know. In addition to the fear of rejection, we may also fear being a burden to someone. The self-awareness of imposing on someone can cause us to make up stories about our relationship. We might imagine that this person’s opinions about us are negative and that’s why they don’t want to help. Just because someone says no to your request for help doesn’t mean they’re saying no to you as a friend, relative, or colleague. As creative as the stories are in our heads, they are always harder than reality.
We can be our own worst enemy, fearing that when we imagine what others might think of us, our self-judgment tends to be less kind than others. We blame ourselves for asking for help when we have a task or a job. It’s ridiculous to think we can do it all, yet so many people try. If our main job is to help others, we tend to be particularly reluctant to ask for help. People are often ashamed and don’t want others to know that they are messy or that their finances aren’t as good as they should be. The truth is, everyone has “stuff” they’re not proud of.
Asking for help might turn out better than you ever thought possible. What was the result of my friend’s request for help? At 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning, he had two friends, a truck and a trailer at his house. In the next hour and a half, three more came. We loaded the furniture first, then the packed boxes. By 9:45 a.m., all the furniture and his belongings were put away.
More benefits come from asking for help. Not only did my friend have his furniture moved, but he was also very touched to learn that people cared enough for him to spend part of their day off helping him. And we all felt good to have helped a friend when needed. The next time you’re faced with a task and you’re feeling down, overwhelmed, or lonely, just ask for help.
Cami Miller is a business coach and partners with leaders at all levels to develop strategies for success. Contact her at [email protected] or text 225-432-0454