Getting by with a little help

When the going gets tough, it is okay to ask for assistance

Published - December 03, 2018 09:00 am IST

Next week seems daunting. Besides completing and submitting practical records for three subjects, you have to prepare quiz questions for an intercollegiate fest that your college is hosting. And, yes, you also need to turn in your article for the college magazine. In case this isn’t quite enough, your parents are insisting that you attend your cousin’s engagement on Wednesday evening — bang in the middle of the week!

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the barrage of demands being imposed on you, take a moment to evaluate your options. You have to finish the record work. No choices there. Can you ask a friend on the quiz club to help with the questions? Can you ask the editor of the college magazine for an extension? And, yes, you are attending your cousin’s function. When we are overwrought, we needn’t push ourselves to the limit. Instead, asking for help can help us tide through crunch times without falling apart. Recognising that we need assistance and learning to ask for it is a skill that can be developed by all of us, including those who vehemently believe in being self-reliant. For the truth is, we all depend on the support and cooperation of others in more ways than one.

Political scientist, professor and writer, Anne-Marie Slaughter says, “It often takes much more strength on our part to acknowledge weakness than to pretend infinite competence.” Asking for assistance is often a sign of healthy coping as it involves an awareness of how much we can actually take on. We need to know our limits and how far we can stretch. And, we should be careful of extending ourselves too far lest we break.

Seek assistance

So, when the going seems tough, it is okay to receive assistance. But we should realise that we may have to ask for it, and ask for it in the right way. In The New York Times , Tim Herrara cites the work of social psychologist Heidi Grant, who provides a few steps that can help us get help.

First, you have to ensure that the person you are seeking assistance from recognises your need for help. Don’t assume that they know the context of your current difficulties. While you may understand your plight, it may not be obvious to the other person why you would need their help. So, if you ask a friend to help you set the quiz questions, explain why are you making the request so that he doesn’t think you are shirking your responsibilities.

Next, you need to specify the kind of help you need. Provide as much clarity as possible by giving details about the nature of assistance you are seeking. Also, the other person is more likely to help if you make it clear that you are not asking for help indefinitely but for a particular task only. This way, the person aiding you also knows how much time and effort is required of her. Last, be selective in asking for help. If you ask a friend who isn’t interested in quizzing, then it is unlikely to result in your need being fulfilled.

While it is perfectly fine to ask for help when you are in a tight spot, you have to be mindful that you don’t ask for help all the time. People are more likely to acquiesce when your need for assistance is genuine and well-deserved. If you habitually postpone your assignments and are always in a fix closer to deadlines, then people are less likely to pitch in. Asking for help should not be your default option. Rather, if you use it judiciously, more people than you realise will be happy to lend a hand.

The author is Director, PRAYATNA.

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