This is the final post in a series on the difficulties we experience when asking for help, why that is and what we can do about it. Part 1 focused on the role guilt plays and Part 2 the role self-worth plays when we don’t ask for help.

If you have been following this series on why asking for help is so hard in the context of health issues, you will have read how asking for help

  • Can mistakenly be interpreted by society as a weakness and this can fuel our feelings of guilt
  • Is a reminder of what we may have lost and can no longer do on our own and how being able to do things on our own contributes to our sense of achievement and self-worth.

The aim was to demystify this issue thereby enabling you to make conscious choices when it is appropriate for you to ask for help. This post touches on a few final considerations.

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

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

So these final 3 considerations will help you maintain your valid sense of self-worth , particularly when others say no to your requests for help.

  • 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.

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 is as if there is a fear that vulnerability is contagious.

Take heart, it’s not about you

Of course their refusal does not 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 of importance to them and others relying on them.

Moving beyond a refusal

The Drama & Empowerment Triangles (Karpman, 1968) are models I and clients have found really useful when moving beyond a refusal and even gearing up 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 offers an alternative view which takes the emotional struggle out of the refusal and reminds us of what we can do.

alt="The Empowerment Triangle"

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 are 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 have you asked for help and you found it easy or difficult? What are your strategies for moving beyond someone’s refusal to help you? How did you create a supportive network? Participate and leave a comment below.

If this blog has sparked something inside you which you would like to talk through, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Although these blogs are written in the context of living with serious illness or a chronic condition, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. So if you think a friend or family member would benefit from reading it, or you just want to share it with the world, share this post using the icons below.

I have started to research the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of long-term conditions and serious illness/injury. If you or a loved one experienced the onset of a long-term condition or serious illness/injury in the past 2 years and are struggling with or wondering what acceptance means for you, I would love to speak with you. Click here to find out more.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks and you are very welcome to join me.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2016

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