This is the first sentence of Nora Klaver’s book, “Mayday! Asking for Help in Times of Need.” If you’re nodding your head as you read this, you’re not alone. Our modern-day culture applauds independence at ever turn, but it is truly through interdependence that we find our biggest strengths.
As the author points out in her book, asking may be so frightening simply because we wait until we’re drowning before throwing in the towel. She suggests that we develop much bigger Mayday-muscles. That we learn to reach out long before we’re in crisis. Sadly, we all struggle through life, side by side, in isolation. Those around us would be empowered and thrilled to lend a hand, but we do not give them the chance. We are stopped by fear: What if the person I ask says no? What will I owe in return? Klaver explains that asking for help is, in fact, learnable. She suggests that we literally practice three times daily – a prescription to create balance.
Crying Mayday is the beginning of a conversation. It builds bridges and relationships. The invitation is really much larger than the situation at hand – it is a chance for community. Using exercise and real-life examples, Klaver gives specific tools to make asking easier. Number one: Name the need — be specific. Number Two: Listen more deeply. Tell the person exactly what you need, and watch their body language. If they seem hesitant or uncomfortable, you don’t have to run for the hills, humiliated. Instead you can say, “You seem hesitant, do you need more information, or maybe my timeline is too tight?”
Mayday provides many other how-to steps, such as:
- What to do when pride or ego gets in the way.
- Why asking for help early and often reduces stress and restores energy.
- Why self-care is the new self-help.
It is oxymoronic that Klaver’s book would be categorized as “self” help. She is the first to admit that self can only take us so far. Self-help books don’t help anyone unless we take action. Even at work it is empowering to reach out. In a recent interview, when asked about the workplace, the author shared, “You show your team that you are thinking about your needs within the context of your organization, and that is impressive to everyone.”
Besides making our lives easier, asking for help can be emotionally and spiritually enriching even make us more confident. The bottom line is that life is a journey. Sometimes the road is unclear, difficult or downright impassable, but you don’t have to go it alone. Asking for help is humbling and it is empowering.
It’s also worth remembering that like all applications of positive psychology, any time an individual is helped, everything around them is made better. One thing cannot be affected without ALL things being affected. Asking for help deepens connections, reduces stress, increases energy, ends isolation, and most of all, it serves others by allowing them to be useful and necessary. In the immortal words of Zig Zigler: “You can get everything you want if you help enough others get what they want.”
To your success! Dr. Success, Andrea Goeglein, Ph.D.