Why is this one of the hardest questions in the English language to say “YES” to? How many times have you said this to a friend? How many times has someone said it to you?

In times of difficulty or when you’re struggling the people around you ask if they can help. And you need help. You KNOW you do. But you say “no, I’m ok” or some version of this instead of “YES”. The past two weeks while my mom has been having a pretty horrible acute medical issue and me and my dad were trying our best to help her, I needed help and I had a lot of people ask me if I did and I kept saying “we’re ok” while meanwhile I was drowning, terrified and the dishes were piling in the sink. Why could I not say yes?

First, what was I supposed to say? Can you stop by my parents house and load their dishwasher? Yes, that is what I should have said, because I truly needed that done and I wasn’t going to get to it. But I felt like a failure asking that. It’s a dishwasher, I can totally load it. Or I can under normal circumstances. But my mom being temporarily incapacitated was anything but normal and the time spent doing other things (drug runs, doctors, helping her shower) were so much more important so these little chores weren’t getting done. But I felt like a failure not getting these things done too so I felt like I couldn’t ask for the things I needed. Plus the things needed weren’t mission critical tasks. I felt like it was rude to ask my friends to do such stupid trivial things. Everyone is busy, they may need to load their own dishwasher, so it feels yucky asking. Which is on me, my friends would totally have done it and having the kitchen not a disaster would have lowered my stress level. But I couldn’t ask. I didn’t ask.

Second, I had no idea what I needed. I was terrified, felt isolated, confused, did I mention terrified, and really had no idea what I needed to do next. In times of crisis our brains triage and don’t think about what is needed 5 or 10 minutes from now, it is all about surviving this moment. And in the moment of asking I wasn’t seeing anything that was help worthy so I couldn’t think of what I needed. In the moment of asking I was fine, it wasn’t the moment when I wasn’t fine or the moment that needed the help so I honestly didn’t know what I needed when asked.

We need to do better at receiving help AND at offering help. Here are some ideas:

When someone asks you, say yes. Anytime someone asks you if you need help, say yes! And have a premade list of what you would like help with that you add to as things come up. One of my girlfriends suggested this. Brilliant idea. Write down what you need as it comes up so when someone asks you can pull out your phone, look at the list, heck give them the list, and ask them what they feel comfortable helping you with. This also gives them the option to select what is ok for them to do which will make everyone happier getting and offering help.

When you ask someone if the need help, make specific offers. I did this with a friend recently and it worked! Her husband was having brain surgery and after the vague “let me know how I can help” I sent her a follow up message saying “I make a great lasagna, let me know if meals for after surgery would be helpful.” A few days later she wrote saying “if the lasagna is still on offer we’ll take it”. I made a clear offer so she knew what I was willing to do so it was easier for her to accept my help. I in turn made a lasagna and a few other frozen easy to bake meals at a time that worked for me and I was happy to share and she got some assistance.

So the next time you are asked if you need help, say yes! Even if you have to brainstorm what that yes means with the person, say yes! And the next time you offer help, make a specific suggestions to help so the person knows the type of support you are willing to provide. We all need help sometimes. We need to work on saying yes. I need to work on saying yes.