[박진영의 사회심리학] The reason I’m reluctant to ask for help is…”I’m afraid I’ll look weak” : Dong-A Science

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For health reasons, etc., I had to ask for the understanding and support of the people I worked with. It wasn’t easy to open my mouth than I thought, although it was a much wiser choice for everyone to communicate my situation clearly and coordinate things in advance rather than ruining my work and myself after only suffering. Sometimes it felt harder to ask for help than to grumble alone. It is said that we live by helping each other, but why does asking for help feel so awkward?

This may be partly due to growing up in an environment where it is cultural not to ask for help. In fact, studies have been showing that people in Eastern cultures find it difficult to seek help and feel much more indebted when they ask for help than people in Western cultures.

On the contrary, I was told that Americans, more than people from other cultures, seem to see it as their right to ask for help, especially when faced with an unavoidable situation, such as illness or disability. So, it was a story about making a request with confidence and, on the other hand, even when other people asked for it, with little repulsion.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they feel free to ask for help without any debt. However, it is relatively small. In my case, I thought I was more used to an environment where I was branded a loser if I had to persevere through hard times and persevere somehow on my own, even if it was difficult, and then fall out.

Then, a teacher acquaintance told me, “The reason co-workers exist is to help someone when they’re having a hard time, and it’s not shameful or wrong to ask for help.” It was a story I knew in my head, but when I heard it in person, I somehow became braver and only recently managed to take the necessary procedure.

When I thought about it again, the biggest reason I was hesitant in the end was, “I thought people around me would see me as an incompetent and whiny person.” The moment I sought help, the fear that my weaknesses would be exposed and that I would lose my hopes was deep in my heart.

Of course, it is natural for the fear of being seen as a weak human being and the embarrassment that comes from having to say my insides and outsides, etc. In a society dominated by the implicit rule of never appearing weak, it is not difficult to say something weak. As a result, many people cannot overcome the wall of fear and embarrassment and fail to seek help even when there is someone who can help.

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the existence of these barriers. It was only after going through a series of processes that I realized that seeking help was harder than I thought. A study by psychologist Vanessa Bones at the University of Toronto found that people, especially those in “helping” positions, are less aware of the existence of these difficulties and therefore do not increase their chances of effectively asking for help.

The researchers had people read a message from the perspective of a ‘mentor or boss’ or ‘new employee’ telling them to ask for help whenever they were unsure. One message was to ask questions or ask for advice, don’t worry that you might look stupid and incompetent, and keep asking for advice even if it’s awkward. The other message was that asking for advice would help you get better your performance. The researchers asked them to rate which of the two messages would help new hires who are more likely to seek real help.

As a result, those who thought from a supervisor’s point of view said that the message that there was a real benefit in asking for help would be more likely to ask for help, while those who thought from the subordinate’s point of view did not shy away from helping than the message that emphasized the benefits of asking for help It was evaluated that a message asking them to ask for it would be more effective. Those who were in the position of the person asking for help decided that reducing their fear and embarrassment about revealing their weaknesses would increase their chances of actually asking for help.

In many cases, embarrassment is a feeling you feel when you think you are doing something wrong that deviates from social norms. If you calculate the cost of not getting appropriate help because you are afraid to ask a question you don’t know well at school or work, it will not be small. It would be good to see if there are cases where they cannot even ask for simple help for this reason. There is no need to be ashamed, we all face difficult situations where we have to ask for help at some point in our lives, and it would be nice if we could tell each other that this is natural, not your fault or mine.

※ Related articles
Bohns, VK, & Flynn, FJ (2010). “Why didn’t you ask?” Underestimate the discomfort of seeking help. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(2), 402-409.

※ About the author

Jinifanc Park. He wrote “Me, a decent person as I am” and “To me who doesn’t love me”. Through books that are easy to understand and empathetic with psychological research that is useful in life, he constantly communicates with his readers. He is active online under the pseudonym ‘Jignon’. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Social Psychology at Duke University.

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