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Asking For & Offering Help

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

We like to help. It makes us feel good and useful. And when we can't help, we feel uncomfortable.⁣⁠ ⁣⁠ So most of the time, when we see someone struggling, we offer ideas, suggestions, solutions, and relatable anecdotes about how we've experienced something similar.⁣⁠ ⁣⁠ And also most of the time, this doesn't help.⁣⁠ WHY?

Because most of the time, when we're struggling, we really don't WANT solutions; we want to feel HEARD.⁣⁠

When if comes to asking for/offering help, there are typically 4 ways to ask for it or offer it:⁣⁠ ⁣⁠ 1. "I just want to be heard." This means I just want you to hold space for me, truly tracking me as I process my struggles. I want you to validate my emotional experience even if you don't understand it, relate to it, or agree with it ("wow, I can see this is really upsetting you" or "gosh, I can imagine I'd feel hurt too," or "I'm sorry this is really hard for you"). (Note: this is what most of us want most of the time...simple, eh?)⁣⁠ ⁣⁠ 2. "I just need a shoulder..." This means I just need your calm, regulated body next to mine to help me regulate. It might mean I want a hug (I'll ask!), or it might mean that I just want you to share space with me on the couch while we watch a movie together in silence. It might also mean that I just want you to quietly pat my hair while I sob for a while.⁣⁠ ⁣⁠ 3. "I want suggestions, solutions & ideas." In this case, I am clearly and specifically asking for you to help me brainstorm a solution. I WANT ideas and relatable experiences. (NOTE: This is often our go-to when we see people in struggle...although it is quite rarely the kind of support people actually WANT!)⁣⁠ ⁣⁠ 4. "I need a reality check." This one is only to be used with trusted friends or supports...and it is asking for an authentic yet loving and non-judgemental feedback. The response might sound like "well.... you might be blowing it a tiny bit out of proportion," or "might it be better if you cooled down before you reacted to the situation?"⁣⁠ If we can learn how to use this type of language with the people we love to ASK SPECIFICALLY for the type of support we want, I wonder how much more supported we might feel??? And, how much nicer will it be for our loved ones: we're basically taking them off the hook for not having to solve our situations when all we really want is to be seen/heard?!⁣ And... notice your impulse when you see a loved one struggling: do you jump to #3 reflexively? If you look a bit deeper at your pattern of reaction, I think it might reveal more about you trying to sooth your OWN discomfort than theirs. ⁣⁠


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