Individual offering their hand in a gesture of asking for support
When was the last time you struggled and had a difficult time staying positive, but weren’t sure how to ask for help? If you’re like most people, this happens pretty regularly. Even as a therapist, there are times when I’m not sure what to do. A background in helping people doesn’t give me all the answers—nor does any other life experience.
We’ve all faced challenging moments where a little help can make a world of difference, which is why it’s so important to ask for help and/or encouragement. How do you even start doing this, though? Don't worry, here are seven phrases to ask for support, according to a therapist.
Related: 14 Phrases to Instantly Lift Someone’s Spirits, According to a Therapist
How Do You Politely Ask for Support?
Asking for support isn’t easy for most people; it takes a considerable amount of courage to admit that you need help. Some view seeking support as a sign of weakness, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Instead, it’s a sign of strength, self-awareness and a desire to bring yourself out of a tough situation—without relying on toxic positivity. We can’t do it all alone, and sometimes turning to our support system (even if it’s small) is the only option.
When this happens, asking politely and gracefully helps to eliminate any embarrassment or shame that comes with needing help. It’s also empowering to know that there are others out there who are willing to come to your aid. Approaching people with kindness and humility also increases your chances of:
Ensuring they feel respected
Receiving a positive response that leads to actual assistance
Strengthening your relationships with the people you’re asking for help from
Showing them you’re being considerate of their time and appreciative of their willingness to help
Demonstrating that you have a positive character, are self-aware, and willing to maintain personal and professional relationships
Next, let’s take a closer look at some phrases you can use in conversation when asking people in your life for support.
Related: 16 Things People With High Emotional Intelligence Often Say, According to Psychologists
7 Phrases To Ask for Support
1. "I'm feeling overwhelmed lately. Would you be open to talking?"
Sometimes, all you need to feel better is a safe, nonjudgmental space to talk things out in. When you get the overwhelming feelings of stress, confusion or anger out of your brain, it “empties your cup” so you have time to process other things going on in your life. This phrase lets the other person know that you’re overwhelmed and invites them to participate in a conversation, allowing them to offer assistance without feeling pressured or overwhelmed themselves.
2. "I really value your perspective. Can I get your advice on something that's been on my mind?"
How many times have you been approached by someone asking for advice because they know you’re a trusted source? It’s a good feeling, right? For many of us, yes. Knowing your insight is appreciated and valued creates a space for requesting guidance in a respectful way. Using this phrase shows the person you trust them and invites them to share their thoughts in a way that’s beneficial for both of you, fostering collaboration.
3. "Do you have a minute to talk? It’s okay if you don’t."
Not everyone has time to drop everything and help at a moment’s notice. Asking if someone has a few minutes to listen to talk something out with you or help you in person (or virtually, depending on the circumstance) lets them know you respect their time. Going a step further, assuring them that you won’t be upset if they don’t, also sends a respectful message—alleviating the pressure to offer support when they aren’t capable of doing so.
4. "I'm finding it challenging to manage everything on my plate right now. Can we talk about how I can get some extra help? I can help you with something once I get my workload to a manageable level."
Whether you’re using this phrase to ask for more support at work or with chores around the house, it’s vital to emphasize precisely how you’re struggling.
It’s easier for a person to envision how they could help you if they know specific tasks, ideas or projects you’re having a hard time with. This statement also evokes sympathy from the other person because they see you’re willing to put yourself in a vulnerable state and ask for assistance.
Remember, teamwork makes everything easier, especially if you’re offering to help them in the future. Now, they know their help will be reciprocated.
5. “I’ve tried several ways to get this to work. Would you take a look at it when you get a chance?”
It’s frustrating when someone asks for help but they haven’t tried anything to help themselves first. Eventually, this leads to learned helplessness, which is where you aren’t able to figure out a solution to a problem, even when the information is accessible or within your reach. You might give up easily or complain frequently. And while learned helplessness is linked to trauma and depression, it is important to conquer it so you don’t end up pushing people away.
Letting the person you’re asking for support from that you’ve already tried to address the situation yourself helps them be confident that you’re not using them as a convenience or crutch and that you genuinely need assistance.
Also, it’s obvious that when using this phrase, the request for help isn’t immediate. When it’s not an emergency situation or something you need help with right away, try to let the other person know this so they don’t feel pressured and know you’re not in danger.
6. “Since you’re already going to be there, would you mind helping me with this when I arrive?”
Using proximity to your advantage can be a polite way to ask for help, especially if it won’t put the other person at a disadvantage or inconvenience.
For example, if you know a coworker who usually gets to the office around the same time as you, it would be appropriate to ask them to help you unload the supplies for the staff retreat that day. This phrase also emphasizes that they can reject helping you if they don’t want to—even if they don’t have a reason to. You should always be prepared for this, no matter how frustrating it may be.
7. “I know this might be inconvenient, and I apologize in advance for this. Could you help me with…?”
Starting off a request for help by acknowledging the potential inconveniences and proactively apologizing demonstrates your awareness and respect for the other person’s time and effort. Addressing this upfront avoids any awkwardness for both you and them, especially if there’s a reason why they can’t help, such as a health issue, time commitment or financial constraint.
It also shows that you’re empathetic and understanding toward their response. If you do choose to use this phrase to ask for assistance, be as specific as you can about what you need their help with so they have enough information to make an educated decision to participate or not.