• Keeping Friends

Friendship by the Book: An interview with the author of MAYDAY

February 26, 2008 | By | Reply Continue Reading

M. Nora
Klaver is the author of MAYDAY:Asking for Help in Times of Need

I asked Nora, to think about some of the ways women can overcome
the natural reluctance to ask their female friends for help.

Why are women afraid to ask other women for help?

As children, girls learn to navigate the emotional channels of
relationships. As we grow into womanhood, we learn to modulate our emotions in
order to attract and retain friends, supporters, and partners. Somewhere along
the way, we learn to believe that friendships are fragile. In reality they are
often much stronger than we imagine.

More so than men, women are concerned that asking for help
will result in rejection or damaging or destroying a friendship. When we invest
so much emotional energy into our relationships with others, we rarely want to
risk that investment.

Women also hesitate to ask other women for help because we all want to appear
capable and in control. And, asking for help implies that we are lacking
something: competence, skill, energy, or knowledge. Letting another know, even
another woman, that we don’t have what it takes is humbling and a bit
intimidating. Women, at work and at home, will burn themselves out before
asking for the help they need simply because they don’t want to appear weak.

Given how busy women are balancing careers and their own lives, how can they
expect help from friends?

Perhaps one of the reasons we are so busy is because we aren’t asking for
the help we need. Instead, we decide, often quite deliberately, to take on
everything ourselves. I encourage women to sit down with one another and
brainstorm common lists of activities — things we all do — that we could
share with one another. That simple support may be enough to lighten our loads.
With just one task alleviated, we might be able to spend a bit more time with
each other laughing over tea or margaritas. We might be able to help each other
avoid the common illnesses that come from being overwhelmed or drained of

For centuries, women have supported one another in Circles. My mother’s own
Circle, and it has been called that for decades, is still going strong though
many of the ladies have passed on. At first they played bridge and talked about
their children, but then they began to be there for one another. Each woman
knew she could call on any of the others for help with a meal, babysitting, or
finding a new job somewhere in town. Life is definitely different now:
expectations are higher, women are working more out of the home,
competition at work is stiff. Those differences strike me as stronger reasons
for creating a powerful and supportive Circle.

Are there any hints you can offer to women about how to ask friends for

Sure, there are simple things to remember when you need to ask for help.
First, cut yourself a little slack. We are way too hard on ourselves sometimes.
Demonstrating a little self-compassion, you’ll see that it is permissible for
you to ask for help.

As you ask, be sure to be clear, as clear as you can, about what it is you
need. Be open to other ideas that your friend may have to solve your dilemma.

Believe that everything will work out just fine. By now, you have received
amazing blessings in your life. And some of the hardest times have turned out
to be the best of times as well. Have a little faith. Not only will you get
through your crisis more easily, but if you believe everything will be fine,
your voice will remain calm and your hands will steady and your request for
help will come out clear and strong.

Remember to focus on what’s already good in your life. Be grateful for your
friendships especially. That gratitude will relax you and help you continue the
conversation with your girlfriend. I always suggest the Three Thanks Rule: say
thank you when your friend agrees to help you and again when help is rendered.
Then, the next time you run into your friend, quietly mention that you really
appreciate what they did for you. This way, your friend will know you remember
what they’ve done and will see how truly grateful you are.

What has been your personal experience
in asking for help?

My life changed dramatically after I learned how to ask for assistance.
Years ago, I was diagnosed with a tumor that needed to be removed. My boyfriend
of three years reluctantly agreed to stay with me post-operatively. Two days
before the surgery however, he dumped me. I ended up having to ask my elderly
parents to come stay with me. I vowed then and there to have people around me
who not only accept my help, but are willing to come to my aid when I need it.
I have an entirely new circle of friends who have internalized the importance
of supporting one another.

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