Marion Goertz, a registered marriage and family therapist in Toronto, offers advice on how to ask for help from those around you and how to respond when assistance is offered.
How to ask for help
• Be specific. Try not to be vague with your request. Only you know exactly what you need and when you need it, whether it's someone to look after your children or to hold your hand during medical appointments.
• Be realistic. Your request should be in line with your friend's resources. Someone may not be able to help you make your mortgage payments, but that same person can shovel your driveway on a snowy morning.
• Be respectful. Graciousness and gratefulness will encourage others to help. Allow them to decide to what degree they are able to assist.
• Be responsible. Make careful choices about what you need help with and what you can do yourself. Do not take advantage of someone's generosity.
• Be mutual. When you see someone in need, be sure to reciprocate the kindness you've received.
When help is offered
• Assess the following criteria: your need, the spirit in which the help is being offered and the costs or benefits to your relationship with the person offering. Accept or decline the offer based on these considerations.
• If you know that you need the help being offered but are finding it hard to accept it, speak to the person and be open to hearing more about why the offer was made.
• Your willingness to be vulnerable and share your needs can provide an opportunity for greater intimacy within a relationship. This provides mutual benefits for both the giver and the receiver.
When you no longer need help
Sandy Lipkus, a grief specialist in Montreal and founder of ShareGrief.com, a grief support service, explains how to let someone know that her help is no longer needed.
• Be honest.
• Ask for time alone.
• Thank her for her support.
• Assure her you will be in contact if you need more help.
• Follow through with your promise.