“It’s OK to not be OK” is the suicide prevention catch cry which rings out every September. It’s become a day of international significance, and rightly so. But how do we ask for help? How do we actually go about telling someone that something is up? Not necessarily with feelings of suicide, but with struggles in our everyday life?
For many it’s not permission they’re searching for, or even to be asked if they’re ok. It’s that they want to know how to ask for help – the actual process and mechanics of asking someone for help.
I remember going to see the doctor for a health issue that just wouldn’t go away. I tried every natural remedy possible. My wife put her health coaching expertise into action and together we set about solving the issue.
Except we couldn’t.
Truth be told though, it’s not that I didn’t think it my health concern could be solved. Rather, I knew it would only be healed through telling my doctor what was going on.
But I was a little embarrassed to talk with him about it and ask for help.
Yet, as these things often go, I had to confront the embarrassment and tell him what was going on.
It was a little awkward I’ll admit. I was pretty nervous. Yet as a professional, he didn’t blink an eyelid. He wrote out a script and I was done in a few minutes…and better in a few weeks.
How to ask for help and solve problems in your life is the same method used when seeing the doctor.
Our problems are like that. To us they seem enormous and embarrassing. It seems if we shared our worries and issues with other people we’d become the butt of their jokes. And we mostly assume that because that’s what we’ve experienced in the past.
Granted, it is a part of our Aussieism. We tend to poke fun at health issues or personal problems. We can see the humour in nearly everything. But it’s this jocularity that actually stops us from sharing. We button our lip and keep quiet when it comes to the personal issues and problems that keep us awake at night.
And we all have them. We all have those niggly little problems that just won’t go away. We feel like we’d be wasting someone’s time if we talked about it. Or that we can cope with it.
Alas, like an annoying pebble in your shoe, the frustration begins to drive us nuts and we have to do something about it.
But how? How do you ask for help?
How do you bring up a taboo topic with a friend to get the support you need? How do you bring up that thing that’s been on your mind for awhile? How do you raise a topic that’s been quietly weighing you down? How do you share with someone a problem or worry you have?
This simple 5 step process will help you to solve personal problems in life and relationships
Step 1 – Set up a face-to-face meeting with the person. Prep the actual meeting with a prior phone call to when you will meet. This allows the other person to be ready for a chat, and also helps them begin to prepare. You don’t need to tell them all the details, but it is worth telling them that there is something on your mind that you want to share with them. Also clearly understand what it is you want help with. Do the homework on yourself.
SCRIPT: “Hi <person’s name>, I was wondering if we could catch up next <day, time> for a coffee? There is something on my mind that I want to share with you. Does that suit?”
Step 2 – At the meeting, thank the person for giving you some time. Begin the conversation by somehow breaking the ice. What I mean by this is either a bit of small talk, tell a joke, ask them how they’ve been etc. Use whatever means comes natural to you, but you want to create a warm and calming environment, both for yourself and the other person.
SCRIPT: After the small talk…”Thanks for catching up. I wanted to share with you something that has been going on for me. To be honest, I’m a little nervous about this, but I know I need to talk this out.”
Step 3 – Share what’s going on for you. Use “I” statements and never blame anyone. Share some of the emotion behind what you’re saying, this will help you and the other person connect. Tell them what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, what’s upsetting or frustrating you. Don’t sugar coat this. Like when you see the doctor, tell them exactly what’s going on using the correct words and terminology. This is the moment of breakthrough.
SCRIPT: “So I’ve really been struggling to sleep lately. I’ve found myself waking up tired and being really stressed during the day. My homelife is a struggle and I’m feeling disconnected with my friends and family. I’m not in a heaps bad place, but I know that if I don’t share this things will get worse. Can you help me?”
Step 4 – After you’ve shared, invite the other person for their thoughts, opinions and advice. By now the nervousness and anxiety would have subsided for you, but you’ll still be awaiting your friends feedback. Receive it humbly. Step 3 and 4 usually turns into a dialogue. This could last 10 minutes or it could last 2 hours. Don’t rush it, but also don’t extend it unnecessarily.
Step 5 – Thank the person for their time and take away what you need. Make sure you ask if it’s ok to keep discussing this topic down the track and ensure the dialogue window remains open. Also write down any other tips or advice you received that you can action once your meeting is over.
SCRIPT: “Thanks heaps <person’s name> for agreeing to chat. I’m feeling heaps better but also know there are some things I need to do. Can we keep chatting about this in the future? And can you ask me how I’m going from time to time? I’d really appreciate that because I don’t want to fight this battle on my own.”
And that’s it. You’ve asked someone for help and learnt to be vulnerable and broken through the barrier of fear!
The thing about these conversations is the more you have them the more you realise there is nothing to be afraid off. Furthermore, these conversations are vital to the ongoing health and wellbeing of your physical, mental and emotional self.
**Bonus tip – if you’re the person being asked to go to a meeting by someone who wants to talk, do so with openness and understanding. Oh, and leave the jokes at the door…unless that’s part of your relational history. But walk this line finely. Read the situation and be sure that when the juicy, honest, and vulnerable moment comes, be authentic and open in your manner and tone. The last thing the person needs is another embarrassing moment to hinder their progress for good!
Like we discussed at the beginning, it is more than OK to be struggling, but how we ask for help and the way we share with people can often be the real hurdle that stops us from sharing – we’re simply not equipped to do so.
But now you are.
Your friends and colleagues genuinely want to help, but we all feel a little weird about how to do it. Let’s reduce the stigma.
A problem shared is a problem halved.