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Accepting and Requesting Help and HELLO STRANGER By Katherine Center

Are you fiercely independent? Maybe your mantra is: “I can take care of myself!”

Cover of the book Hello Stranger by Katherine Center, used as a teaching example for the concept of requesting and accepting help

If so, do you *sometimes* reject help because of underlying fears and vulnerabilities?

There’s a fine line between “confidently capable” and “defensively independent and rejecting.” Read on for some tips on accepting and requesting help.

Barriers To Accepting & Requesting Help

Self-criticism: The assumption that asking for help makes you appear incapable or weak, especially if you’ve been pretending to have everything together and asking for help would expose your bravado.

Negative Associations: Past experiences of asking for help or accepting help ended badly, and those failed attempts were generalized and applied to other people and situations.

Avoiding Rejection: The assumption that you ask or need too much and that the other person will say no or judge.

Tips For Accepting & Requesting Help:

Flip Perspectives: Reflect on how awesome you feel when you help others – friends, family, even strangers. Helping others makes people feel happy, accomplished, and needed. It’s awesome.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think: When insecurities arise related to prior disappointments, check the facts by noticing the differences between the people/favors/topics / etc. of the past versus the situation you currently face.

Mobilize Your Resilience: If you put yourself out there and the person says no, try to notice the specifics of that situation and the reasons the person shared for not helping so that this negative feedback isn’t generalized moving forward.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: If you don’t ask for help, you don’t get it. If you ask for help and the person says no, you don’t get it. The end is the same either way. Remind yourself that you have nothing to lose by trying.

Teaching Example: Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

Sadie, a struggling portrait artist on the precipice of a potential big break, has a surprising side-effect from an otherwise successful surgery: face blindness. Suddenly, Sadie can’t recognize anyone’s face – including her own—and certainly can’t complete a portrait.

Sadie’s mom died young, and her father quickly remarried. A Cinderella-like situation ensued, and her father and his new family ultimately rejected Sadie. This experience taught her that no one would help her; she needed to be completely independent. With few exceptions, Sadie refuses offers of help and certainly never asks for it. Now that she’s face blind, she confides in precious few people about her condition and avoids asking others for the most minor level of help possible: identifying themselves to her when she is unsure.

Apply The Skills

There are many domains in which Sadie could ask for help. Here, we will focus on just one: asking the person she is talking to who they are.

Here are a few things Sadie could do when faced with someone she can’t identify.

Sadie could put herself in their shoes. Indeed, if she knew the other person was experiencing a vision/interpretation problem, leaving them unable to recognize her, she would offer her name.

Sadie could remember that her worst case scenario is that the person either will not tell her who they are (unlikely), judge her (also unlikely), or pity her. She could acknowledge that pity is not an inappropriate response to her challenging and unique situation and allow others to feel it and care for her emotionally and concretely. This may reframe the worst-case scenario to feel empowering as it will enable her to receive support from her community.

Sadie could distinguish the past from the present and notice that her family-spurred problems in the past are independent of the friends and romantic interests she could lean on now.

Sadie could remind herself that asking someone to tell her their name is a tiny favor, especially given the reason for her confusion.

The Takeaway

If Sadie could ask for help with identification, she would deepen her friendships, diminish feelings of loneliness and isolation, and avoid massively confusing social situations.


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