Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Two Words That Make Asking for Help a Lot Easier

Asking for help is hard. Knowing what to say makes it easier.

Source: LeventeGyori/Shutterstock

It's likely that all of us have hesitated to ask a question at one time or another for fear that we'll look stupid. It's also likely that we've refused to ask for help when we could have really used it, because we didn't want to appear weak.

But asking for help—whether you want clarification on something you don't understand, or you're struggling with depression—is a sign of strength, even if our culture often tries to convince us otherwise.

Factors That Prevent Us From Asking for Help

There are many reasons people don't like asking for help. A 2017 study that examined factors that prevented depressed men from seeking help, sums up many of the reasons why people don't seek help when they need it.

Here were some of the top reasons why men didn't ask for help:

  • "I would think less of myself for needing help."
  • "The problem didn't seem worth getting help for."
  • "I wouldn't know what sort of help is available."
  • "The problem is embarrassing."
  • "I don't like to talk about my feelings."

While that list specifically examined why men don't seek help for depression, many of their reasons seem to apply to other situations as well.

Emotions like fear and pride are often at the root of the problem. Self-worth issues also prevent people from asking for help. Some people worry admitting their shortcomings will be such a blow to their self-esteem that they will crumble.

Other people feel helpless. They're convinced that no matter who they ask for help, or how many times they ask, they won't get the assistance they need.

How to Find the Courage to Ask for Help

Whether you're experiencing depression or anxiety, or you need more help watching the kids, it takes courage to ask for help.

If you're pretending like you've got everything together when you don't, you're not being mentally strong; you're just acting tough. Ignoring your pain, masking your weaknesses, and suppressing your emotions won't make you feel any better.

Remind yourself that asking for help means you're strong enough to admit you don't have all the answers—and that's a real sign of strength. It means you're trying to deal with uncomfortable emotions like humility, fear, and embarrassment head-on. It also means you're willing to be vulnerable.

Two Words That Can Get You Started

Sometimes, it's hard to find the right words to ask for help. How do you ask your spouse to help out more around the house? Or how do you ask your boss for more time to get a project done?

My advice? Start by saying, "I'm struggling." Those two words acknowledge that you're having a hard time. And they'll open up the dialogue to begin addressing the problem. Whether you're struggling to deal with stress and you want to start a conversation with your doctor, or you're struggling to pass your college class and you want to talk to your professor, get the conversation started right away.

The best news is that asking for help develops the mental muscle you need to become mentally stronger. Over time, asking for help gets easier, and the more support you gain, the better equipped you'll be to take on bigger challenges.

Want to know how to give up the bad habits that rob you of mental strength? Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.

LinkedIn image: Pearl PhotoPix/Shutterstock

More from Amy Morin
More from Psychology Today