Here's How to Ask For Help Courageously and Assertively! [2 Step Process]

What's missing in our culture of pleasing and achieving is the skill of assertion. More than a middle road between being passive and being aggressive, assertion recognizes that BOTH you and others have needs, wishes, rights and value in the world. Assertion is about respecting ourselves WHILE respecting others. And because assertiveness is a skill - this means it can be learned.

One great way to practice being more assertive is by asking for help - or making requests of others.

Guilt, Shame and Asking for Help...

But it can be challenging to get our needs and wishes met without feeling guilt or shame. Many of us have been socialised to put others first. We have been taught not to "get a big head" or "think too much of ourselves". So when we ask for help and say, "I need X" our critic jumps up and says, "Who do you think you are?" Suitably shamed we put our needs back in their box.

And it's not just us. A simple, "I need your help with this" can be experienced by the other person as a demand on them - they think it was selfish of us to ask. This makes it hard for those of us trying to live more assertively.

officeMC910216310NEWSFLASH: When someone (or our critic) responds to us in a way that leaves us feeling shamed or guilty, we don't have to AGREE with them! We can't stop the feelings from arising, but just because we feel it doesn't make it true either! Assertive people know not to take other people's reactions personally.

Why It's Important to Ask Assertively:

When people lack the skill of making assertive requests they make life unnecessarily hard for themselves - and sometimes others too! They may miss out on opportunities, take longer to complete things or make them more complicated. And they may also cause resentment due to the indirect way they try to get their needs met instead.

When we learn to make requests assertively, we are respecting both ourselves and others. By asking directly for what we need without apologising, we say, "I have value" and we're also saying, "I value your help". It's a compliment to the other person.

The Surprising Role of Beliefs in Asking for Help/Making Requests:

Surprisingly, the big thing that makes making requests difficult for people is what we BELIEVE about asking for help.

See if any of these beliefs resonate with you:

  • If I ask and someone says no, it means that they don't like and/or respect me.
  • If I ask for help, then I am under an obligation to them. I "owe them one" or they "have something over me".
  • I should be able to do this myself. Asking for help means I am weak OR other people will see me as weak
  • I'd rather do it myself than risk rejection.
  • If I ask someone for help, I will annoy or upset them.
  • Other people are more important than me, I don't want to be a burden/add to their stress/workload.
  • I don't have the right to ask for help.
  • People should KNOW, I shouldn't have to ask.
  • A GOOD person always helps others.
  • If I'm excited about this, other people must want to help me!
  • They should help me, it's their job OR because they owe me.
  • They should want to help me as I'm more important/stressed than they are.

Some beliefs make it hard for us to ask for help. And some beliefs impact the way you ask and the effect you will have on the other person - making it more likely you will encounter resistance.

Asking for Help Takes Courage:

In asking others to do something for us we make ourselves vulnerable. We risk rejection. We risk annoying or upsetting someone. We risk feeling shame for saying "I matter", guilt for adding to someone's stress or workload, embarrassment for showing "weakness". These may "only" be feelings (ie. just because you feel it doesn't make it true), but you will still feel it first.

So, yes, it takes courage to ask for help - in some situations more than others.

But we also risk getting something done faster, more smoothly and more easily. We risk doing a better job, learning something new, sharing an experience and getting to know someone better. We risk building a relationship and showing who we really are (being authentic).

Not only that but when we don't ask for help, we are also failing to give others the opportunity and simple pleasure of helping someone else.

Making an Assertive Request - A 2 Step Process

So, Here's a Simple Formula to Ask For Help - Assertively:

There are 2 steps to making an assertive request. The first is asking assertively, and the second is accepting the other person's response assertively.

STEP 1) Ask.

Try, "Hey Julia, so that I/We/the company may X, please would you do Y?"

Do: Use the other person's name and give the reason why the help is needed. Be direct. Keep what you need from them short and clear. Make sure you are calm, make eye contact and speak sincerely.

Avoid: Unnecessary pre-amble or a long list of justifications. And don't flatter the other person solely to get them to say yes.

STEP 2) Be prepared to have a conversation until you are both satisfied.

The other person might respond and say, "Absolutely, consider it done". Or your request may require (shock horror) an actual conversation - where you negotiate until BOTH of you are satisfied and clear.

Remember: The skill of assertiveness means we recognize that the other person has the right to say "No", ask for clarification, negotiate, think about it and also to let you know of any problems your request might cause for them. And that's OK.

In Summary

Remember that an important part of being assertive is not taking people's responses to you personally, and that other people's rights and needs are just as important as yours. Not more important and not less - but EQUAL.

Being able to assertively make requests of others is rewarding on many levels. When we make a request of others, whether it's a need, want or work requirement, we are saying that who we are and what we do has value. It's also probably the fastest and most effective way of getting our needs met - and the job done.

It's great for our relationships too. Making requests assertively saves us from manipulating others passively, or throwing our weight around and demanding assistance - both of which alienate us from others.

But most importantly, making assertive requests builds our confidence and self-esteem. It takes courage to ask for help and risk rejection. But the more we do it, the stronger we get.

Homework for You/Questions to Ask Your Clients:

1) What Are Your Beliefs Around Asking For Help?

  1. How do you view yourself when you ask for help?
  2. How do you feel when someone asks you or others for help?
  3. What are your expectations when you ask someone for help?

2) Now get out there - use the 2 step process - and practice!


If you liked this article on assertiveness and asking for help, you may also like:

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Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

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  1. Dawn Baggett

    Love this!! Thank you so much. Being assertive according to this seems to mean allowing space for the other person to also assert themselves. I think this mutuality may be the difference between assertiveness (a good thing) and pushy-ness (aggression, bullying, bossiness, controlling).


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