We all need help from time to time, but some of us have trouble asking for it. Sometimes it’s because we grew up in families or circumstances where no help was readily available, or we were criticized for needing it. Sometimes it’s because our current situation makes finding the help we need an overwhelming prospect. Whether our difficulties rest in figuring out what we need, finding the right person to ask, or working out how to word our request, there are many strategies available to discover and tap into the support many of those around us are eager to give.
Do you know the etymology of the word mayday? It comes from the French “m’aidez” (pronounced much like the English word mayday). It literally translates to “help me.” Whenever we use the word or send out a mayday signal, that’s literally what we mean: help me.
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.
People wildly underestimate the odds that others will help us, says social psychologist Heidi Grant. From strangers to colleagues to friends, we think people are likely to reject our request, and that leads to people not asking for help as much as we should.