How To Help Your Friends Help You...
One of favorite songs by The Beatles is, "With a Little Help From My Friends" , which was written for and sung by their beloved drummer, Ringo Starr. This is one my all time favorites because...um, hello?
We all need a little help from our friends.
Life can be poop. We all struggle and we all have our down days. Friends can be incredibly helpful in our hour of need...but sometimes we can make it difficult for them lend us a helping hand.
So, here are some practical tips on how you can help your friends help you...
1. Remember that the majority of your friends are not mind readers. Speak up and let them know you would like their help.
I used to make my friends play a guessing game when I found myself struggling. I would get quiet. I would withdraw. I would leave subtle clues that things may be difficult but then I would confuse them with strong statements like, "I'm. Fine."
It took me years to realize that this tactic of trying to preserve my dignity while gaining my friends' help was useless. In fact, it would only frustrate the friendship. Instead of causing my friends to realize, "Hey...maybe Noelle needs some help" ... they were thinking things like, "Why is Noelle being so weird?"
I wanted my friends to recognize that I was in need without ever having to admit it out loud. The best and most efficient way for friends to recognize that they can help you is to tell them so. No one is a mind reader. If talking on the phone or face to face feels too vulnerable at the moment, a text or email can do the job. In my experience, when I have text my friends to say, "I need your help", they have always been ready to give it. When I wait for them to catch on that I am in need... it wastes a lot of unnecessary time. I wind up feel hurt and neglected while they feel rejected and confused.
2. Give them a specific and practical way that they can help you.
When we are going through something, our friends will often ask, "How can I help you?" Sometimes the crisis or difficulty is so overwhelming that we don't even know how to answer them. My advice is to give them the next practical and specific task that you need to address. A few examples of this could be:
Your have experience a series of difficult weeks at work. You are feeling like your job might be on the line and your self esteem has taken a blow. Ask your friends to go see a movie with you to get your mind off of work issues.
You are having marital difficulties. Things are really tense. You can't think of anything else but what's going on in your relationship. Ask a friend to take your kids to the park for an hour just so you can collect your thoughts, talk to a counselor, or even go food shopping.
One of your parents is very sick. You are feeling very sad and exhausted from caring for them. You have neglected your own home in the process. Ask a friend if she could help you as you clean your house because you can use a helping hand and the company of a good friend.
To have your needs best met by a friend, give them a clear and practical task that they can do for you. You're not being bossy. You are humbly asking for what you need.
3. Accept the help and don't feel guilty about it.
The biggest issue when friends try to help us is that we won't let them. There is something about allowing a friend to offer a helping hand that stirs guilt into our heads. Don't feel guilty! One day, it will be your friend's turn and they will need your help. Your vulnerability in asking for help will have paved a guilt-free way for them to ask for help from you too.
Think of Ringo singing to you right now...
"Said I'm gonna get by with my friends, yeah (Ah, with a little help from my friends)
Oh, yes I'm gonna keep trying, now (Ah, with a little help from my friends)
Keep on trying with my friends (Ah, with a little help from my friends)
Oh, I'm never gonna stop there, oh (Ah, with a little help from my friends)
Gonna get by with my friends"
You WILL get by with a little help from your friends.
When we communicate what we need and how they can meet it, our friends can become our greatest help. In most cases, it is not unwillingness that keeps our friends from helping... it is our lack of vulnerability. We can help our friends help us by letting them know we don't always have it altogether and that's why we need them.
Always your friend,