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"I Hate Asking for Help"

Excuse #1 “I Don’t Want to Look Weak” continued...

Turning to others in times of need should not be a source of shame. Rather, it’s a sign of strength and smarts because it means you know what you can and can’t handle and that you’re planning ahead to get everything done regardless. “But asking for help can reveal things about yourself that you may not be proud of or happy with,” Klaver says. “In Joy’s case, she didn’t like admitting that she didn’t have anyone she could call on to help her out.” To avoid falling into a similar trap, remind yourself that asking for help strengthens social bonds. “When you make yourself vulnerable, others open up in return,” Klaver points out.

Stewart agonized for two weeks, and then, finally, the day before the form was due, she mustered the courage to approach Nancy. Not surprisingly, Nancy happily agreed to be her emergency contact. “I wish I’d asked sooner, because it would have spared me a lot of angst,” Stewart says. “I wasted so much energy — and if Nancy had said no, I wouldn’t have had any backup plan.” A bonus to Stewart’s outreach: The two women now are friends and regularly chat together.

Excuse #2 “I Don’t Want to Impose on My Friends”

When Sharon Marcus moved to New York City from San Francisco, her good friend Anita volunteered to come paint her new apartment and do minor repairs. Marcus wanted to learn those skills and knew she would enjoy working with her friend. Still, “it seemed like a terrible imposition to ask her to take time off from her job, fly across the country, and spend a long weekend working on my new place,” says Marcus, 41, an English professor. She fretted for a week about whether or not to take Anita up on the offer.

She needn’t have, says Reynolds. “Ultimately, it’s up to the other person to decide whether your request crosses the line.” Most people like to be helpful, especially if you’ve given them a hand in the past. If you’re not sure, then before you reach out, ask yourself if the friendship could withstand a “no.”

When Marcus finally followed up, Anita gladly agreed to help; as it turned out, she was eager to see her friend. The two enjoyed a whirlwind weekend of painting and reminiscing, transforming Marcus’s apartment. Marcus also learned enough to go it alone with a paintbrush and small tools. “Anita’s help actually made me need less assistance on other projects,” she says.

Whenever you ask for a significant favor, acknowledge that it’s a big deal (“I know I’m asking a lot”) and give the person permission to decline up front (“I understand if it’s too much and you can’t do it”). And of course, give assurances that you’ll return the favor when she needs it.

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