Self Improvement Uncategorized — 04 February 2018
Asking for Help in Times of Need

Aside from physical and emotional wellbeing, financial stability is perhaps the third most important aspect in one’s emotional and physical security. Though money does not “buy happiness” or assure interpersonal harmony or lasting love, it does assist us in feeling safer.

Perhaps, it is assumed by family members that those expectations are obvious, even when they have not been voiced. Yet, among friends, relatives and acquaintances, it may be unwise to assume others will know how to be of help in times of need without having been previously guided. Of course, asking even a close friend whether physical harshness exists in their relationship is a very sensitive subject and may even create an emotional distance between the questioning individual and the responder. The inquiry may be done in a tactful way such as, ”I imagine that your couple’s battles are solely verbally expressed.” Even a slight hesitation by the responder should arouse concerns for the listener. Many close sisters or women friends prefer to stay taciturn when questions about marital physical abuse are brought up. The abused individual may feel ashamed to share this information with others and thus, unknowingly, may have a part in enabling this abuse to be perpetuated. Secrets are certainly allowed within friendships, but should not be acceptable when one’s physical and emotional health are being compromised.

Shame about being in need of help is common, deep and painful. The person in need may feel inferior, incompetent, unworthy or ashamed to be on the receiving end of an unbalanced relationship. In a lifetime of friendships, the unspoken, but often known commitment is to be of aid to each other during hard times.

Frank Flynn, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Stanford and Vanessa Lake a Ph.D. student at Columbia University conducted a study in which they had volunteers ask strangers on campus to borrow their cell phones, solicited individuals to complete a questionnaire, asked them for money, and asked for direction to the gym. which required the student to walk at least two blocks out of his/her way. “The volunteers were astonished when the average donation they received was $17, ranging from $30 to more than $1,000.” The study participants concluded that “People’s underestimation of others’ willingness to help were driven by their failure to diagnose these feelings of social obligation on the part of others.”

Research by Alex Dixon, titled, “Kindness Makes You Happy and Happiness Makes You Kind,” cited a British study measuring Life Satisfaction, in which 86 participants were assigned to one of three groups. One group was instructed to perform a daily act of kindness for the next ten days, another group was told to do something new each day for ten days, and a third group received no instructions. “The groups that practiced kindness and engaged in novel acts both experienced a significant, and roughly equal boost in happiness; the third group didn’t get any happier.”

Consider that asking for help may:

  • Enable another individual to feel helpful and caring.
  • Boost the “helper’s” self-esteem.
  • Equalize the balance in your relationship.
  • Provide a deeper connection for both of you.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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