Category Archives: Life Lessons

5 Mistakes When Asking For Help

1. Being Vague

Have you ever wanted help on a problem you didn’t want other people to know about? So you ask for help but change the details so they won’t know the truth. I’ve done this, and many times I’ve taken their advice and not gotten the result I wanted. After this happened many times, I’ve learned the problem is the person giving advice can’t give you accurate advice if they don’t know all the details of the situation.

Think twice before asking for help from someone you wouldn’t trust with all the details. It’s best to share all the details as you ask for advice, or to not ask for advice. If you decide to be vague be very cautious taking the advice you receive, because it is likely the wrong advice given they do not know your situation.

2. Asking Someone without Expertise or Credibility

Have you ever asked your friend for help because they were your friend? Or asked a mentor, parent, authority figure, etc. because it was their role in your life to help you out? This might work for simple problems, but as you become an adult with adult problems, it becomes more and more important to ask for help from someone who is experienced in the area you are having trouble with. Adult problems are complex enough that most people don’t know how to solve all of them, so you will benefit greatly from the knowledge and expertise of a specialist.

Before you ask for help, check for credentials or proof of prior experience.

3. Asking at the Wrong Time or Place or Situation

The worst time to ask anyone for help is when they are rushing to the bathroom to answer nature’s call. It’s a funny example but it highlights the message clearly: recognize the situation. If someone is busy, or they have 10 minutes of free time and you’re asking for 10 hours, or you need help with something that’s 1,000 miles away from someone and you need the help right now, then it’s not practical to even ask.

Plan your request ahead of time and qualify the situation by asking them if they have the availability and resources to help.

4. Using the Wrong Form of Communication for the Problem

If you need paragraphs to explain, don’t text. Call or email.

If you need something urgently, call don’t email.

If what you are talking about is emotionally charged and you need to pay attention to body language and tone and respond quickly to how the other person will react to what you are saying, do it in person, don’t text or call or email.

If you have useless information, post it on social media 😛

5. Not Accounting for Bias

If you ask a hammer salesman for help, the hammer salesman will likely recommend a hammer. If you ask a drug salesman for help, the drug salesman will likely recommend a drug. Whoever you ask for help will give you the solutions they have used for their life. Recognize this and exercise wisdom in choosing who you ask for help.

Be aware of bias. Ask help from people who recently solved problems similar to yours in the way you want to solve your own problems.

The person you ask help from will always bias their advice towards leading you to live a life similar to their own life. Everyone thinks they make good life decisions, so their advice will be based on their own decisions. If they don’t have the life you want, take their advice with a grain of salt.

Furthermore, if they have the life you want but they achieved it 10-30 years before you, know that the world has changed so their advice is likely out of date. Taking advice that is biased to a world that is long in the past is equally bad as taking advice that is biased to solutions you do not want to use.

Misc Comments

  • Healthy people expect healthy ways of asking: politely and respectfully. If you’re accustomed to unhealthy ways of asking for help, recognize that you will alienate healthy people from understanding or engaging with you.
    • If you ask for help in unhealthy ways, the only people who understand you are other unhealthy people. It’s nice that unhealthy people are willing to help, but they often lack the healthy skills to effectively help. This means the only advice you will get is unhealthy advice. So make sure 1. the person you’re asking is healthy 2. the way you ask is healthy so that 3. the advice you’re getting will lead you to a healthy life.
  • I followed the advice of old people who said they regret choosing career over family. So I chose family over career and I suffered the consequences of fighting for survival without money or a career. Then I realized the bias in the survey: them saying they regret career over family is a luxury they could afford to say only because they had a career. If you polled old people without a career and without a family they would wish they had a career and family. 
    • Don’t take advice blindly. All advice is biased and you need to think through what the message is and how it applies to you.

Protect Yourself When Traumatized

Do not trust anyone with your trauma. When you are weak and sick and ill, there are cruel people who will take advantage of you or derive pleasure from hurting you. Avoid these people.

Do not share your emotional injuries with people who don’t believe you. Give them once chance. If they are skeptical and they think you are attention seeking or lying or making it up, leave them. 

Find someone who will listen to you and believe you and understand you and empathize with you and give compassion.

You are in a weakened state when traumatized. You want help, but you must face the reality that the world is not a kind place and you might not get the help that you need. If you do not face this reality, you will get weaker and weaker as people hurt you more and more.

Take responsibility for yourself by protecting yourself from the harm of others who are indifferent. Remember, these people are not personally looking for you to harm you. They just don’t care about you, and apathy is not active harm.

Find your close friends, your family members who historically have proven they make your life better, or call for support hotlines or use your medical insurance. Whatever you do, do not ask for help from people you cannot trust.

Communicate What You Want – Life Skills

Don’t lose the skill of describing what you want to other people.

I came from an abusive background where people ignored my requests. Every time I described what I wanted, I would either be yelled at or ignored, so I eventually learned to not describe what I want. As the years went on, I gradually lost the ability to describe what I want. I even stopped asking myself what I wanted at all.

When I moved to a healthy environment with people who were supportive and helpful, I struggled. They wanted to help me, but they didn’t know what I wanted from them and I forgot how to communicate what I want.

I started to relearn how to communicate what I wanted with baby steps.

Each of the following stages took me many attempts to learn before I could progress to the next step.

  1. I remembered to listen to my feelings at all after suppressing them for so long.
  2. I would get people’s attention when I wanted something by making a noise or taking an action.
  3. I would let them know the reason I wanted their attention is because I want something.
  4. I would try to describe what I want, and I would be misunderstood, and I would not get what I want, but at least in this step, people were trying to give me what I want.
  5. I would describe what I want accurately, and people would help me get it or direct me to others who can help me get it.

If you find yourself not getting what you want like I did, ask yourself if you are stuck in steps 2-4 where you are trying to communicate what you want, but you are actually communicating that you want something, but not what it is you want.