Don’t Expect Others to Read Your Mind

When you need help, you need to speak up

Wendy Miller


Photo by: max-kegfire via Getty Images

We’ve all been there. We’ve all needed help and wished someone would see our need and feel compelled to fill it. We feel like it’s obvious that we need help and so someone should just step up and help without being asked. We do so much for others without asking for anything in return and wish our efforts would be validated when we need assistance.

This simply isn’t practical and is the root cause for many of the issues that come out on a therapist’s couch. To receive help, we need to actually articulate our need — and get specific about it. We can’t expect anyone to read our mind.

Only a ridiculously small segment of the population can be micro-focused enough to see when someone needs help and be able to make things easier without being prompted. The theory called The Diffusion of Responsibility states that people are less likely to take responsibility and do something if others are present. There is a sense that someone else will surely step in and take the lead. Without the ask, the need remains unmet.

So, why don’t people ask for help? Reasons like:

● Fear (of looking weak, of being rejected, etc.)

● Pride

● Being Overwhelmed (too much to do, not knowing where to start, etc.)

● Confusion (they don’t know what they need help with)

The most effective course of action to get support is knowing what you want, being prepared for help, and asking for help.

Know what you want

This seems simple — but is it? You may know you want help cleaning the house, and you likely have a running list in your head of the chores that could be done. To ask for help, your recruits will need to know which chores need to be covered and what your expectations are for their completion. The more specific you are about what you need, the better.

Take the time to decide exactly what you want and from whom. If it’s help cleaning the house, decide to ask your daughter to mop the kitchen, your son to clean the bathroom, and your partner to fold the laundry, for example.