How to ask for help when you’re afraid to do so

How to ask for help when you're afraid to do so

It takes a lot of courage to admit you can’t do something on your own. It can make you feel vulnerable and afraid. I know. Believe me, I’ve been there.

One of the biggest hurdles in asking for help for me was letting go of my pride. I believed asking for help would show I was weak.

I mean, let’s be honest: Who wants to willingly reveal their weak points?

Instead, you tell yourself: “I’ll figure it out myself. I’ve always relied on myself in the past. I can do it again.”

And everything is fine until anxiety takes over. Then, you start to get scared someone might see through you, and start to believe you are incapable of doing the work.

The pressure weighs you down:
  • You start worrying about what others might think of you.
  • You get nervous at the thought of failing.
  • You start believing you might not be capable.
  • You feel stressed about appearing imperfect.
  • You feel vulnerable, anxious and exposed as a fraud.

If you are living with the feelings listed above on a regular basis, you are showing yourself and the world that you’d rather be afraid than ask for help.

Those feelings are unnecessary, and certainly not the way leaders live their lives .

Fear is a shifty companion because it skews your thinking. It makes you defensive and insecure because you believe everything and everyone feels negatively about you.

Fear also impacts our mental and physical well-being. According to University of Minnesota Center of Spirituality & Healing, physically living with fear weakens our immune system and can cause fatigue, depression, accelerated aging, and premature death.

It negatively affects your thinking and decision-making, too. It can interrupt brain processes that regulate your emotions. For example, it changes your ability to read non-verbal cues, to reflect before acting, and to behave ethically.

So what can you do to push past your fear of asking for help? Below are some strategies that can help you conquer your limiting beliefs once and for all:

1. Open your eyes and mind to the bigger picture.

Remember that when you allow fear to control your life, you hold yourself back from doing your genius work and creating great results. If you are smart (I know you are), you realize being paralyzed by fear isn’t efficient or effective. The better strategy is to ask for help, line up adequate resources, and get the work done.

2. Face your fear.

You can’t defeat an enemy you don’t know. Write out what triggers your fear of and how it holds you back. Be honest with yourself. Honesty opens doors. It’s a powerful tool.

3. Give yourself permission to be you.

Don’t try to be anyone but yourself. That means you must first know who you are and own it. Create a list of tasks that you enjoy and are good at. Then, create another list of things you don’t like doing. Let other people do those things you don’t enjoy. You can’t be perfect at everything. Remember, everyone possesses a unique ability. Discover what makes you unique and do more of it.

4. Tap into resources you have and find/hire/ask for the help you need.

Oftentimes people overlook the resources and support they already have. Look around and create a list of all the support and resources in your life right now. Don’t discount them simply because they are familiar to you.

Next, determine which resources you are missing, and what you can do to acquire them. For example, if you hate cleaning your house, hire a housekeeper. If you hate doing your books for your business, hire a bookkeeper. If you are ready to make changes in your life and career, hire a coach.

5. Practice being yourself.

It is humanly impossible to know everything and be perfect at everything. We all need a little help now and then. Instead of trying to be someone you can never truly be, why not practice being yourself?

Are you overwhelmed because you are afraid to ask for help? Share your experiences below in the comment section.

“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.” ― Aristotle pic.twitter.com/uVJ0TqEh1L


Nozomi Morgan, MBA, is a certified Executive Coach and the Founder and President of Michiki Morgan Worldwide LLC. Addition to coaching, she speaks and trains on leadership, career, professional development and cross-cultural business communication.

Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

How to ask for help when you're afraid to do so

Whether you’re afraid someone will laugh at you for being incompetent, or you just can’t admit to yourself that you don’t have it all handled, asking for help can be hard. It can be embarrassing, too—especially if you feel like everyone else is keeping up and you’re the only one falling behind.

Whether you’re embarrassed to talk to your doctor about your depression, or you’re scared to tell your boss you don’t understand a project, the longer you put off asking for help, the worse your problem may become.

Here are five things to remember the next time you’re too embarrassed to ask for help:

1. Admitting you need help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

It’s easy to tell yourself things like, I should be able to handle this by myself, or, I’m an idiot for falling so far behind. But those messages won’t do you any good. In fact, they’ll just slow you down, distract you, and impair your performance even more.

Acknowledging your shortcomings—rather than masking them—is a sign of strength, not weakness. After all, you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

2. Getting help can save you a lot of time and aggravation.

To spare your pride, it can be tempting to try to go it alone. But your refusal to ask for help can lead to a lot of unnecessary aggravation. Not to mention, you may also waste a lot of time trying to do things on your own.

In some cases, early intervention is best. It’s a lot easier to get help for depression when you first see warning signs, rather than five years down the road. Or it’s easier to fix a problem that you’ve only screwed up a little, rather than trying to fix it after you’ve caused some serious damage.

3. Seeking assistance gives others an opportunity to serve you.

Some people fear that asking for help will bother someone else. So rather than ask a neighbor to help move a heavy piece of furniture or ask a friend to provide a little emotional support, they suffer in silence for they fear they may be judged.

But studies show that asking someone for a favor is more likely to cause the person to like you more. Ben Franklin is said to have purposely asked people for favors just to win their affection, and research has since confirmed that asking for help can make you more likable.

4. You aren’t the only one struggling.

If you are feeling overwhelmed at the office or completely lost in a college class, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re the only one having a hard time.

But there’s a good chance that if you’re struggling, someone else is, too. They might not be brave enough to admit it. If you find the courage to speak up first, someone else may feel more comfortable stepping forward and admitting their struggle.

5. Asking for help can make you more comfortable in your own skin.

Refusing to ask for help is a short-term solution that leads to longer-term problems. While it may spare you a minute of embarrassment, avoiding assistance can lead to much more embarrassment down the road.

Asking for help is a great experiment: It’ll help you challenge negative assumptions about yourself and show you how others react to your requests. And the more often you do it, the more confident you’ll become in your ability to handle a little bit of embarrassment or discomfort.

Want to learn 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 Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock

Asking for help is probably one of the most difficult things to do—especially at work.

I used to shy away from doing so in fear of looking weak or incompetent in front of my colleagues. I was sure that my superstar work status would be shattered if I dared to let down my guard and admit I didn’t know it all.

But, I was wrong.

Once, after pouring myself into a project that I’d initially fought for, I missed a vital part of the assignment because I’d been too afraid to ask for further clarification. While unsure of my next steps, I forged ahead anyway. My refusal to admit I was lost ended up delaying the project’s launch and affected my entire team.

With my tail between my legs, I had to admit that my biggest mistake was not swallowing my pride and owning up in the very beginning.

Here are four things (I learned the hard way) that happen when you don’t ask for help at work:

1. You Gamble Your Professional Reputation

Ironically, this experience turned my biggest fear into reality: My competence was brought into question. It was a blow to my ego—not to mention embarrassing—to know that I not only turned in less-than-stellar work, but I made my team doubt my abilities as a result.

When you don’t ask for help, you’re not only at risk for making a reputation-ruining mistake, but you prompt people to believe you don’t know what you’re doing (and that you don’t know when to ask the right questions).

2. You Alienate Others

Because of my lack of communication, my peers assumed I didn’t need help. Some even made other assumptions about me, such as that I was antisocial or not open to collaboration. This only made it harder for people to reach out to me for guidance or want to work with me on other assignments.

3. You Lose Trust

Not only did my team question me, but so did my manager. He worried about my self-awareness and work ethic, and especially had concerns about how that would impact other projects or deadlines. This lead him to trust me less (and micromanage me) going forward.

4. You Miss Additional Opportunities for Growth

Though I had to work hard—very hard—to regain the trust of my manager and team, I forfeited the right to throw my hat in the ring for other high-profile projects for a period of time. Not only did this cost me exciting (and career-boosting) opportunities, but I missed the chance to make contacts with many clients that I had on my wish list. Even worse, I was left wondering if any of them had learned of my mistake and wouldn’t trust me to work with them again.

More importantly, not seeking out my colleagues’ advice meant missing out on the opportunity to learn from others who may’ve been more experienced, more educated, and more skilled than I was.

Despite how embarrassing the entire situation was, I found myself grateful for one thing: If my mistake hadn’t been caught, it potentially could have caused more trouble down the line, because I never would’ve started asking for clarification when I was confused.

Of course now, when I do ask for help, I always make sure to do it the right way to ensure I get everything I need and avoid the obstacles above.

  • Ask early enough to allow people (as well as you) plenty of time to tackle the task
  • Identify the person best able to assist
  • Be straightforward, clear, and concise about your needs
  • Be sure to present your request in a way that gives them an out—you don’t want to make them feel guilty if they say no, no matter the reason
  • If possible, ask in person, and then maybe summarize your ask in an email so they have all the information on file
  • Be sure to say thanks after they’ve helped you out
  • Seek out opportunities to help others in the same way others helped you

No one knows everything, no matter how great at their job they might be. When you don’t ask for help when you need it, you assume a burden all on your own that might gladly be shared, and deprive those who’d love to assist you the chance to get to know you better. Most of all, you limit your own professional growth by not embracing what you’ve yet to learn.

Still feeling unsure about when it’s appropriate to ask for help (without looking like an idiot)? We can name four instances you definitely should, plus how to do it right.

Last Updated: March 29, 2021 References

This article was co-authored by Julia Lyubchenko, MS, MA. Julia Lyubchenko is an Adult Counselor and a Hypnotherapist based in Los Angeles, California. Running a practice called Therapy Under Hypnosis, Julia has over eight years of counseling and therapy experience, specializing in resolving emotional and behavioral problems. She has a Certificate in Clinical Hypnosis from the Bosurgi Method School and is certified in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy. She earned an MA in Counseling Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy from Alliant International University and an MSc in Developmental and Child Psychology from Moscow State University.

This article has been viewed 423,313 times.

Whether you’re afraid of something specific or you just tend to be anxious in general, you’re definitely not alone. A lot of people struggle with fear in their daily life, and the good news is that there are things you can do to feel less afraid in the moment as well as in the long run. This article will walk you through some simple ways you can start to face and override your fears so they don’t have as much power over you anymore.

How to ask for help when you're afraid to do so

Julia Lyubchenko, MS, MA
Adult Counselor & Certified Hypnotherapist Expert Interview. 29 April 2020. Fear is a natural response to a perceived threat, and in certain circumstances it can be healthy. However, fear can also inspire a fight or flight response in situations even when there is no threat. Take a moment to assess the situation and see if your fear is coming from an actual threat, or just as a reaction to something unfamiliar. [2] X Research source

  • If, for example, you hear a bump in the night, take a moment to think about if there are other things, such as your neighbor closing their car door, that could make that noise.
  • If there is something real, do something about it, like making an appointment to have a doctor look at the mole, or calling the police if a stranger is walking around beside your house.
  • Think about whether your reaction is due to fear or phobia. While phobias trigger fear reactions, the reactions are disproportionate to the actual danger. Phobias interfere with your ability to cope. You may need the help of a therapist or doctor to deal with a phobia.

When we’re struggling with something, it’s natural to turn to others for help. Helping each other is all part of the giving and receiving that makes up good relationships.

Getting help sounds simple. But it’s not always easy to do. Sometimes we stand in our own way without realizing it.

Certain beliefs or ways of thinking can make it hard to see opportunities for help. Here are some examples of the kinds of attitudes that can stand in the way — and ideas on how to get past them.

Obstacle 1: Believing That Needing Help Is a Sign of Weakness

Asking for help shows maturity and confidence. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness. You know what you need and you’re not afraid to reach out for it.

For example, instead of thinking:
I don’t want my coach to find out I can’t nail that move in case he thinks I shouldn’t be on the team.

Change it to:
I’ll show my coach how committed I am to the team — and how hard I practice — by asking him to share tips on how I can improve.

Obstacle 2: Thinking You Don’t Deserve Help or Support

Everyone needs help now and then. No one can — or should — handle everything alone. Accepting help can strengthen friendships and relationships. Everyone feels good when they can support a friend!

For example, instead of thinking:
I’d really like to find out how Katy is coping with her parents’ divorce, but she’s so popular and busy I’m sure she doesn’t have time for me.

Change it to:
I’ll ask Katy if she has time to talk and let her know how much her perspective means to me. Maybe some of the stuff that happened to me can help her too.

Be choosy about who you ask to help, though. Share your feelings or a problem with someone who listens and cares — not someone who judges, criticizes, or blames you. Most of the time we can guess which way people might react. But on rare occasions, they catch us off guard. If you do get rejected, it’s not because of anything you did. It’s what’s going on with the other person.

Tell yourself:
If Katy says no, she might not be ready to talk about her own experiences. If she’s rude, then I’ll know from the start that she’s not friend material.

Obstacle 3: Not Speaking Up to Ask for Help

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have people in your life who see what you need and offer to help before you ask. Usually it’s a parent or a close friend. But sometimes when we need help, we have to ask. The best approach is to be clear and direct, like saying, “I’m having trouble with this. Can you help me?”

For example, instead of thinking:
I’m afraid my friends won’t want to hear that my boyfriend pushed me — they already think I’m ignoring their advice about him being too controlling. And I don’t want to worry my mom. So I’ll just keep this to myself for now.

Change it to:
I’ll tell my friends they were right and I’m starting to worry about my boyfriend’s behavior. I’ll ask them to help me figure out what to do and how to tell my mom.

Obstacle 4: Waiting for Someone Else to Make the First Move

It’s not always easy for other people to see when we need help. Maybe we’re putting on a cheerful face to mask the problem or giving off a vibe that we don’t want to talk. Don’t wait for someone to read your mind or notice what you need. Ask.

For example, instead of thinking:
I really wish Shanya would ask about the scars on my leg so I can talk to someone about my cutting. I know she suspects, but maybe she doesn’t really care.

Change it to:
I’ll tell Shanya what’s going on and say I could really use some help.

Obstacle 5: Giving Up Too Easily

If help doesn’t get us what we expect right away, it’s tempting to give up. But getting help takes ongoing effort. It might take multiple attempts.

For example, instead of thinking:
You’d think the college prep advisor would know right away what’s best for me! He’s supposed to have all this experience, but now that I’ve met him I wonder if it’s all just a big waste of time.

Change it to:
My first meeting with the college prep advisor was a little disappointing. But it will probably take him some time to get to know my personality and which college is the best fit. I’ll give it two more meetings before I make a decision. I’ll also try harder to share what I want and not expect him to read my mind.

Why Asking for Help Is Important

None of us can go it alone. The people who believe in us remind us that we have what it takes, that we matter, and that we’re loved. But sometimes we just have to reach out and ask for that help. Our friends and family love us, but they can’t always know what we want, especially if we are putting a brave face on things.

Because it can be hard to reach out for help, don’t hesitate to reach out and offer support to another person if you think he or she needs it. Giving and receiving help are great life skills to learn. They help us learn character qualities like empathy and generosity, as well as understand other people better.

Advice for being proactive about reaching out to mentors and colleagues.

Katie Shives is a PhD candidate in Microbiology at the University of Colorado. Her various writings can be found on her portfolio site, kdshives.com.

One of the most important things that I’ve learned in graduate school is how to ask for help when I need it. Knowing when and how to ask for help can make navigating this unknown terrain much easier and save you time by avoiding the mistakes (or experiments) that others have made. This skill cannot be underrated, as you will encounter the unknown regularly in your studies as a graduate student.

The trick is knowing when, and how, to ask for help. The point of graduate school is for students to become independent scholars of their chosen disciplines who can ask and answer their own questions.

When starting out it’s quickly apparent that graduate school is different from undergrad. It can be difficult to know what is expected of you in terms of being instructed on what to do versus independently figuring out what to do. This is a huge change from undergrad, where a lack of knowledge was assumed and professors were there to show you what and when things needed to be completed. Now, there are still professors to ask for assistance, but by and large graduate students are expected to take the lead in their training and reach out for what they need.

Quite often your peers and professors are extremely busy individuals, so waiting to be noticed and helped is a path to disaster in graduate school. As a first-generation graduate student this was a huge adjustment for me and made the first semester much more difficult than necessary. When starting out, I often made the mistake of waiting to be helped and could not understand why I was having such a hard time staying up with the material. I learned that if you are struggling, you have to take the time to identify precisely what you need, who to ask, and what to ask. For me, it meant acknowledging that I was struggling with a specific course, asking the graduate program to match me with a tutor, and requesting slightly reduced hours from the head of my rotation lab so I could study more. And guess what? It worked! However, I never would have gotten what I needed if I had not identified these specific issues in the first place.

Figuring out what you need can take some time. If you are frustrated with your progress, take a break from your lab or project to get a clear idea of what you really need help with. Maybe you’ve been too close to the project to realize that you need assistance from someone trained in the new assay you are starting or line of code you are trying to put together. One of the great things about being an academic trainee is the fact you are surrounded by experts, so make the most of these resources and ask for assistance.

Imposter syndrome can be a serious obstacle in getting what you need out of your program. If you feel like you don’t belong or don’t deserve to be in your program, then fear can prevent you from asking for help. Don’t let imposter syndrome stop you from getting assistance, otherwise you risk turning unfounded fears (you were admitted to the program after all) into a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

When it comes to internal barriers when asking for help, fear and pride are right at the top. Imposter syndrome or excessive pride can blind you to the people and resources around you that can answer difficult questions. It may feel good to do it all on your own and give your ego a stroke, but it may take much longer than if you ask someone who has done it before and learn from their mistakes (don’t undervalue the negative data!).

Asking for help is not limited to the technical questions, so don’t forget about your larger support network. Struggling with personal issues like time management or anxiety? Talk to other students, they’ve probably been through the same problems and would be happy to help you. Stuck trying to get your project to work? Don’t just ask your PI/Adviser, go to your committee members and other faculty members as well. They have a wealth of knowledge and it is quite possible that their expertise in a different area might give you the extra dose of perspective that you need to start making progress. The point here is not to limit yourself in who you can ask for help. Take a hard look at what resources are available to you and who can help you accomplish your goals and make the very most of them.

Don’t let pride or fear get in the way of gleaning everything you can from your graduate training experience. The level of freedom and independence afforded to us as graduate students is immense and, while it can be overwhelming to navigate this system, taking the time to identify what you need and how to get it is never a waste of time. This is your education and it’s up to you to get the most from this experience.

Have you ever gotten stuck in graduate school before and had to ask for help? Share your experiences in the comments sections below!

[Image from Flicker user Got Credit, used under creative commons license.]

Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.

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Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in weight management and eating behaviors.

How to ask for help when you're afraid to do so

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If you haven’t been feeling like yourself and think you might be depressed, speak with your family doctor first if you have one. If you don’t have one, then scheduling an appointment with a general practitioner would be a good place to start.

The reason for this recommendation is that there are several medical conditions, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hormonal changes, and thyroid conditions that can cause symptoms similar to depression.   It’s also possible that your depressed feelings could be the result of medication side effects or some other cause.

By giving you a thorough checkup, your doctor can rule out any other potential causes of your depression symptoms. In addition, depending upon how your insurance works, it may be necessary to see your primary physician first in order to obtain a referral to a more specialized mental health care provider, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Depression Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor’s appointment.

How to ask for help when you're afraid to do so

Asking for Help

While you may feel embarrassed to ask for help, it is not necessary to feel this way. Depression is a very common condition and your doctor is already quite familiar with it. It will not seem strange or shameful in any way to your doctor that you are feeling depressed.

In addition, you don’t need to worry about your friends, family, or employer finding out about your depression. The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule prevents your physician from disclosing your private medical information without your permission.  

How to Bring up Depression

Tell your doctor that you haven’t been feeling like yourself and you believe that you might be depressed. This will open the door for your doctor to get you the help that you need.

How to ask for help when you're afraid to do so

  • July 7, 2007

RAISE your hand if you have ever asked for help at work or at home.

Raise your hand if you have ever felt shy or stupid in doing so.

I think I can safely assume that most of us are waving our arms wildly.

Requesting assistance from colleagues or friends, whether it be for a work assignment or to help care for our children when we are sick, is something many people have trouble doing. (Some, on the other hand, are all too comfortable leaning on others. We will get to them later.) In a society largely based on helping yourself — just go to any bookstore or library and browse the voluminous self-help section — it may seem odd to promote the idea that we need to learn better ways to ask for and receive assistance.

But a small movement is saying just that.

M. Nora Klaver, whose book “MayDay! Asking for Help in Times of Need” (Berrett-Kohler Publishers) will be out this month, says learning to ask for help is not just good for altruistic reasons; it makes business sense.

“People often believe they don’t have trouble asking for help, when they do,” she said. “Sometimes they sit on projects for weeks because they didn’t want to ask for help.”

There are many reasons people fear requesting assistance, primary among them not wanting to seem weak, needy or incompetent (any of these ring a bell?).

“There is a tendency to act as if it’s a deficiency,” said Garret Keizer, author of “Help: The Original Human Dilemma” (HarperCollins, 2004). “That is exacerbated if a business environment is highly competitive within as well as without. There is an understandable fear that if you let your guard down, you’ll get hurt, or that this information you don’t know how to do will be used against you.”

The danger, however, is that stalling can let the situation grow from a problem into a crisis.

Credit counselors see that all the time. Caryn Bilotta, manager of education services at Advantage Credit Counseling Services, based in Pittsburgh, said people waited too long to seek help. “People don’t want to think about it. They don’t know how to handle it.”

Had they sought assistance earlier, she said, her organization could have worked with them on budget counseling, instead of how to get out of debt.

Also, Ms. Klaver said, it is “very hard to sound centered and grounded” when coming from a place of panic.

“People like some advance notice,” she said. “It’s like the people who call for a loan for rent on the first of the month rather than a week before. And then it costs me more money to make the immediate transfer. It drives me crazy.”

Although it is always dangerous to generalize (I can see the e-mail messages coming my way), it does appear that men often have a harder time asking for help than women.

Ms. Bilotta said, for example, that her company’s advertising is limited, but what advertising it does is often aimed at women.

“Not because women get into more trouble, but because women tend to make the call,” she said. “Like my husband will say, ‘You’re better at that than I am.’ ”

Another fear is that if you ask for help, you will be surrendering all control, and that the person you want assistance from will take over the entire project. Even outside the office, sometimes we fear if we ask for help, “we’ll get more than we want or need,” Mr. Keizer said.

“Most healthy individuals want to help and need to help and derive pleasure from it,” he said. “But if you present that need to the wrong individual, you’ve bought a hovering, patronizing relationship. You’ve asked for help getting across a stream and they’re building a boat.”

He recalled a woman who told of a friend who did not want to stop comforting her after a bereavement, even when the woman was ready to move on.

There is also the fear of what someone is going to ask in return.

“What’s the price? What’s it going to cost me?” Ms. Klaver said.

No one likes to feel indebted, and asking someone else to come to your aid can shift a relationship’s power balance. Most of us prefer that the situation be reciprocal: I will help you on this report; you help me with this client. I will pick up your child from school; can you have mine over for a play date next week?

The relationship becomes unbalanced in two situations. The first involves those who frequently ask for help but never reciprocate. They need no lessons in asking for help, but rather in giving it.

The second involves those who are more than happy to rush to your aid, but refuse to ever let you return the favor. In theory, it may seem great to have someone who is always willing to lend a hand without needing anything in return, but I know I start feeling uncomfortable with that equation fairly quickly.

“When we get into trouble with help is when we don’t want equality restored or achieved,” Mr. Keizer said.

Ms. Klaver knows that problem all too well. As with many people, she used to confuse dependence with co-dependence.

“I had created this life of self-sufficiency, and the people I surrounded myself with were takers,” she said. “There came a point when I needed their help and they disappeared. I said, ‘I need to change my life — I need to be comfortable giving and taking.’ I needed to say goodbye to some friends and business associates.”

One reason asking for help is difficult, Ms. Klaver said, is that most people have never been taught how to ask properly.

So we do it badly, sometimes using guilt, coercion and blackmail. We solicit pity when we want assistance. We ask the wrong person. We might have felt humiliated doing it in the past, so we fear doing it in the future.

So, she offers some tips on asking for help:

¶Be straightforward. Ask in specific terms, but do not micromanage.

¶Rely less on the obvious people. When seeking a doctor, for example, do not just ask your friends, but go to a nearby gym and ask who the athletes see.

¶Bypass phone calls or e-mail messages if at all possible and make your request in person and in private. Sometimes anonymity is useful, however. Ms. Bilotta, the credit counselor, said that people often feel more comfortable discussing money issues over the phone rather than face-to-face.

¶Pick up on cues — is that an enthusiastic or a reluctant yes?

¶Say thanks when the agreement is struck, when the need has been met and when you next see the person who helped you.

I think I am now fully prepared for the next time I need help. I will ask early, clearly and concisely, without making the person I ask feel guilty.

And if all else fails, there is always cold cash.

How to ask for help when you're afraid to do so

I coach a lot of people on finding the courage to step up and ask for help. I don’t know where it began, but the idea that asking for help is a weakness is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard, and it only took me 30-something years to realize it.

I have a strong-willed, Type A personality. Until recently, I had spent most of my life “doing it all” in an effort to appear as though I had everything under control all the time: relationships, career, parenting, all of it. Most of that time, I was managing just fine, operating on all cylinders without feeling like I was being swallowed up by the burden of responsibility. Multitasking became a word I used regularly and a trait I honed with admiration from friends and family.

Here’s the thing: At some point, even the best of us need help. Knowing when to ask for help and understanding why you need it is ultimately the most important thing.

Whether it’s as small as asking someone else to share in the household chores, or something as big as stepping back and relinquishing the reigns on a big project at work, here are some tips for asking for help:

1. Change your mindset.

Stop thinking you have to be the one that does it all and start accepting you’re only one person. Once you get it in your head that you are worthy of the luxury of having help from others, your world will open up, allowing you more time to do things that inspire you and, subsequently, those around you.

Before I started coaching, I had a long, successful career in corporate America for a Fortune 500 company. I worked long hours and was accessible all the time. I was handling everything without delegating. And for the longest time, I thought I was happy. I thought that being in control of everything made me strong — until I crashed, hard.

Ultimately, I ended up sitting on the bedroom floor on my wedding anniversary sobbing. The kids weren’t listening, my husband was working a lot, a deadline at work was looming and I was drowning. I was exhausted, cranky and unhappy. I couldn’t understand how I had allowed all of the elements of my life to get so overwhelming. As I was sitting there, my husband said four little words to me that changed everything: “How can I help?” He said, “Tell me what you need us to do and we will do it.” It was that simple.

From that day on, I started asking for help — with things at home and at work, for my own personal sanity.

It feels good when someone offers help. Most people want to help. Having the opportunity to delegate assignments creates a deeper level of trust and appreciation from everyone involved. You’re relinquishing some control, which isn’t always easy, but you’re also creating a more secure bond in your relationship.

2. Make time for yourself.

We often neglect ourselves because we’re too busy doing everything. In the end, that’s not helpful to anyone: It causes burnout and frustration, which creates a recipe for combustion. Make sure you’re taking time every day for a little self-care. Five minutes before bed, an hour at the gym, whatever it takes to have a few moments to clear your head and allow yourself the freedom to decompress, make it happen. It will change your perspective and your attitude.

I started to implement more self-care into my life by joining a gym and focusing on my physical health. I started to turn off my cell phone at night — nothing was so important that it couldn’t wait until morning. I became more engaged with my children and focused on spending quality time with them, including more book reading and conversation at bed time. I started to focus on my marriage instead of just going through the motions. The communication in our home shifted completely, it became more honest, respectful and appreciative.

Creating a self-care routine also helped me find a better appreciation for my professional life. Being able to know when to call it quits at the office to focus on my time allowed me to find a way to effectively prioritize my to-do list. Taking five minutes at the end of my work day to reflect and review my accomplishments, followed by a little bit of planning for the next day, relieved a lot of stress.

3. Reassess your priorities.

There will come a time in your life when you’ll have to take a hard look at your situation and make a major change, and that’s OK. Whether personally or professionally, it’s not an easy task. Reassessing allows you the luxury to focus on yourself and the people who matter the most. Take a good look at your life and make sure you’re living it in the best way you can.

Over the last five years, my entire life has changed. I left a job that I realized was no longer serving me in multiple ways. I started doing things that made me and my family happy, and I didn’t worry about other people’s opinions. I started practicing mindset techniques and journaling again. I found my true calling in coaching. Helping others create their dream lives is what I was born to do.

None of it would have been possible if I hadn’t started asking for help. Asking for help has strengthened every aspect of my life and affords me the ability to look forward with optimism and excitement.

As soon as you begin to implement asking for help in your life, your mindset will shift, your priorities will change and you’ll have the ability to focus on you for a change. Sometimes small tweaks are all it takes to make a big impact. You should try it. Help: It’s a good four-letter word.