It can be hard when asking for help doesn’t work. It’s hard enough to ask for help. So it can feel doubly hard when people refuse to help. You then you ask yourself, ‘Now what?’

Sometimes the people we expect or hope to readily help us – parents, partners, children, good friends, colleagues, teachers, etc. – don’t. They may simply not be available at the time we need help. Or they may tell us to ‘get on with it’ or ‘everyone has problems’ and to ‘just sort yourself out’. Some people float away, never to be seen again. The one person or people you thought you could rely on is not there for you when you need them.

It can feel hurtful being on the receiving end of that. You can feel as if your difficulties have no validity, as if you are not valid. It’s no wonder we don’t ask for help. Your needs are not validated and the message you get is you have to do it on your own.

So here are three things you can do to help you maintain your valid sense of self-worth when asking for help doesn’t work.

  • Exploring the possible reasons why people say no
  • How to move beyond no
  • Consider who to ask for help
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Moving beyond no. B Babcock 2016

Why people do not give help

People can say no to a request for help for a variety of reasons.

They feel they are too busy with what they already have going on in their lives.

Or they may worry that they will become the go to person for help and do not want to feel relied upon. When you help someone, an inter-dependence happens in the relationship. Some people are not comfortable with that.

They don’t want to help.

Maybe they are the ones who are used to being helped and are not used to giving it.

Their assumptions around receiving and giving help, for example, ‘you just have to get on with it’, i.e. do it yourself.

They are upset with you for a previous perceived transgression and this is their way of ‘getting back’.

And sometimes, the other person just cannot handle seeing us in the position we are in. They see us as vulnerable, and as I wrote previously, some people interpret vulnerability as weakness. It’s almost as if there is a fear that vulnerability is contagious.

Take heart, it’s not about you

Of course their refusal doesn’t have a positive impact on you and it can make your life temporarily more difficult. In the above examples, the reason behind the refusal to help is their ‘stuff’, not yours. Their reasons are about them. This doesn’t excuse any insensitive behaviour. They are just not capable of helping right now, or in every circumstance, or ever.

But also, sometimes people are just too tired themselves or they need to do something important for them.

When asking for help doesn’t work, then it’s about how to move beyond no

The Drama & Empowerment Triangles (Karpman, 1968) are models my clients have found really useful when moving beyond no and even to prepare themselves to ask for help. They focus on Power, Vulnerability and Responsibility.

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The Drama Triangle

In the Drama Triangle, common features of the Victim role include wishing someone would come along and sort out your issue and make things better without us having to ask, and/or feeling others do not understand and are making your life worse. It shows up in the words we use to express ourselves: continual ‘why me’; references to what others have said you can, cannot or should do; getting upset at others when they cannot help us.

When we are in Victim mode, we can look to others as our Rescuer – the person we hope will sort out our issue for us or who does. Or we may look at them as the Persecutor, the person who does not help and makes our life miserable. We in turn may move to the Persecutor role, getting upset at the other person who has refused to help us. They are then in the Victim role. It can be a merry dance around this triangle!

The Empowerment Triangle is the place to be

The Empowerment Triangle offers an alternative view which takes the emotional struggle out of the refusal and reminds us of what we can do.

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The Empowerment Triangle

Consider who you ask for help

Consider people’s capabilities and willingness. Not everyone is capable of helping or willing in every situation, even some of our nearest and dearest.

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Asking for help – capability and willingness. B Babcock 2016

For those people who said no, think about times when they may have helped. That will give you a clue in which circumstances they may be more willing to help.

Also think about those times when you will settle for capability and not willingness, i.e. you ask someone to help and they usually do, but they don’t appear happy to do so.

For those who are just not capable of helping nor willing, find other people who are. They are out there. It does require taking a leap of faith when asking people for the first time to help you.

Having a network of people around you, who can help at different times and in different situations, recognises that people have different capabilities and levels of willingness. It is important to find those people and create a supportive network.

Clients who have become accustomed to asking for help said

  • They’ve learned over time that it works more often than it does not
  • You cannot rely on one person to do everything and be your everything

What’s it like for you?

When asking for help doesn’t work, what are your strategies for moving beyond no? What makes asking for help difficult or easy for you? Participate and leave a comment below.

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2016

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