Why is it so difficult to say “yes” to an offer of help?


We know that asking for help is difficult. It may be because there is always the possibility that we may get a negative response—it’s never easy to find the “right” time to ask or find the “right” words to say, and vulnerability is required to share our situation. But just saying “yes” to help offered is equally difficult, why is that? Are we worried will be seen as “weak” or “less than?” Is it that we don’t want to have too many “I owe yous” out there? Or is it because it’s easier to just say “no, thank you” than to coordinate the help?

There are so many situations that call for an extra bit of support that we can easily relate to, like moving to a new place, healing after an accident or illness, needing a ride... some events harder than others, but many that we will encounter throughout our lives. For example, there were over 1.7 million new cancer diagnosis in the United States last year. But how many of those people are really leveraging the power of community to help them through it and how many are having a hard time saying “yes” to help that is offered to them by their loved ones and/or their communities? In the midst of a difficult situation, saying “yes” to help does not come naturally. We all want to say “thank you, but we’re okay” even when we are not.

It is human nature to conserve energy whenever possible. This means that most of what we do is usually out of necessity, self preservation, and/or motivation. Therefore, the first thing to keep in mind is that when people are offering help, it is usually motivation that drives them. It’s not something they have to do, but something they want to do. Similarly, when you offer help to someone, you are self motivated and eager to help because you care.

So how can we get better at accepting help when it is offered? First, we will need to change our perspectives towards giving and receiving help:

It’s not you. It’s the situation!

If you reflect on the times when help was offered to you the most, you will notice that it was when you were experiencing a challenging situation. Think about it, everyone who is offering you help most likely is doing it because they would have liked to have had that support if they were in your shoes. It’s not that you are “weak,” or “less than”... it is hard for anyone to “have it all together” especially during difficult times. If people are offering you help, it’s probably because the situation calls for extra support.

“I owe yous” vs “I love yous”

People are offering you help because they care about you. They are happy to help and letting them help you will most likely make your relationships stronger and more intimate. So instead of seeing help that is being offered to you as “I owe yous,” consider they are “I love yous.” Say yes to the possibility of strengthening the bonds you have with the people supporting you. Very often when you allow people to help you, you will never forget those who did. And it is very likely that when they need your help, you would be first in line to offer your assistance, not because you feel like you owe them, but because you want them to feel how they made you feel… like people care and have your back.

Don’t feel guilty. The goal of helping is to get you back on your feet.

People want to help you get back on your feet, that is usually the goal of helping you! Many times, their help allows you the time to relax and practice self-care which is vital for recovery and healing. It is very easy to feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, but sometimes the road to recovery starts by helping ourselves first. When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others.

Coordinating can be a hassle, but it doesn’t have to be

Okay, so you’re open to accepting help but even after saying “yes” there is still the hassle of coordinating when/how to receive the help. Of course you can coordinate with family members and friends via phone when to drop off a meal, where to pick up your kids, etc., but you may not have the mental head space for that, so it’s just easier to decline offers than to accept them. That may be the case, however there are plenty of coordination services that are available exactly for these situations. Organizations offering such services are: Rallyhood, CaringBridge, LotsaHelpingHands, LivPact, and CareCalendar. All of which can help coordinate how, from who, and when to receive help from the ones who care about you.

I don’t know what I need or I have everything I need right now

Help is often offered when we are not ready to receive it, or even know what we need. People commonly say: “Let me know if there’s anything you need,” or maybe they ask: “How can we help you and your family?” By default, the latter is easier to answer because they’re asking how they can help you instead of directly placing the ball in your court. But for both scenarios, if you have something in mind or anticipate a future need, let it be known. And if you are unsure of what you currently need or will need, say “yes, thank you, but can I let you know tomorrow or later on when I know?” This way, you will not feel the pressure to come up with something on the spot thus giving you some time to make an inventory of future needs for which their help will be very valuable.

You are NOT being an inconvenience

Many people don’t accept help that is offered to them because they don’t want to inconvenience the people offering, but people wouldn’t genuinely offer help if that was the case, right? One way to overcome the feeling of being an inconvenience, is to remember that you can make their day too with a simple and heartfelt “thank you” note or phone call. Giving and receiving help takes effort, but you are worth it!

With you during the good, the bad, and the ugly

Life is filled with ups and downs, love, heartache, serendipity, adversity… the good, the bad, and the ugly, but you don’t have to face it alone! Having a support group is important during difficult times. We all can leverage the power of community, such as the nonprofits and organizations found on our Resources Page. Life is hard but you don’t have to deal with it on your own. Embrace yourself and the power of others to conquer some of life’s most difficult situations together.

Still struggling? We’re here to help!

If you’re still not convinced or still feel uncomfortable accepting help that is offered to you, know that if you were the one offering the help, you would want to feel accepted, appreciated, and that you really made a difference in that person’s life. However, if you are still worried about coordination issues, not knowing what you need right now or in the future, or still feeling like an inconvenience—you may consider our platform KikuPal, as these are some of the reasons why we created it. We understand that saying yes to help may come with a lot of questions and/or feelings; we strive to make it easy for you to have an actionable way to get the help you need when you need it. So when your loved ones ask you how they can help, using KikuPal may be the easiest way to say “yes!”

If you have trouble accepting help, why do you think that is? Please, let us know by commenting below. Thank you for sharing!