Radmacher's blog

On The Subject of Asking for Help and Accepting Offers of Help...

Posted on June 12, 2015 at 10:55 PM


He’s called “Mr. Brilliant,” for good reason. Some time back John F. Ptak faced A Very Large Medical Issue. Very. Large.


And then...The “How?” of “How can we manage this?” became “How can I accept such

Grand Offers of Help from so many people?” Something I am facing and, by extension, David is facing these days. On his own David’s attitude is very straight forward. David is grateful and he is practical. I say “How? How can I ask or accept all this help?” and he  says, “Just say thank you.” John’s instructions had a resonant ring to them.


In the conversation John first and last acknowledged two important things. It took him a bit of time to come to terms with the “I can/should do this all on my own,” mentality with which our generation was raised and most everything he learned about being able to accept the Gift of Help he learned from Patti Digh and Amy McCracken. Noted.


Here are the notes I took on this very helpful conversation...If there are quotes around it it’s as close as I could capture to what he actually said. Otherwise it’s commentary on what he shared.


“The whole thing of being able to accept offers of help is pretty simple. Maybe even easy (although it took me a while to grasp this and come to grips with really how simple it is). Do you know what you need? Ask for it. Does someone give you something?

Accept it and say thank you. In the context of need, that’s pretty much it. You’ll busy yourself thinking, and I thought of this a lot, HOW can I possibly pay back these big kinds of favors. Forget pay back. It’s not about paying back. It’s about paying it forward.


“Once you get past all the issues and thinking about it. Once you get past all THAT, you realize that with people helping you, you’ll be better able to help others. You’ll be able to help more and do more.


“I know we’ve all been raised to do things on our own. Stand up. Do it all. There are times that with that attitude you can lose everything: drown. Go down with the ship. You’ll be under water but at least you’ll have your pride? No. Part of the deal of a gift is that you have to accept it.


“When people ask you what they can do to help - specificity is your gift to them. They WANT to help you, it would make them feel good to help you and if you have nothing specific for them to do you are going to end up with a freezer full of potato casseroles.

Because when people want to help you and they don’t have a specific thing to do, they'll make you food. It’s just want people do. So be kind - and be specific and LET them help you..”


I remarked that in a weird way, not identifying the ways I could really use help in this period of challenge, is kind of selfish. Like it’s okay for me to help others but it’s not okay for people to help me. As I said that I also heard the arrogance of it. Feeling resistance to help is being prideful about my own need. I was in conversation with two academic who deal in leadership issues. Just today it was topical as to how important it is for a leader who is overwhelmed to be able to say, “I cannot do all of this myself, I have to delegate some things or set some things down.” There’s a clear grace and humility involved in being able to receive help. Or ask for what you need. Ironically I am a strong advocate of asking for what is needed. It’s theoretical. I feel pride in the small asks,or asking for support in ways that help others in addition to me,  but the big asks push me into a wobble.


John agreed that in a kind of twist on the script, refusing to specifically ask for helpis kind of selfish. It makes the person who wants to help you feel uncertain...and then, all those potato casseroles.


“Look just ask. Ask for what you need. And then, when you get it, say thank you. There’s no next thing. There’s no pay back. You don’t have to go solve some world crisis or invent the next vaccine to pay people back. You just go on better able to do what it is that you do and you help others when you can.


“So, start a list and look at a calendar. Identify specific times that you’ll need help.

Then ask. Let people be happy that there’s something they can do for you that you really need. It’s good for everybody.”



These notes brought to you by someone who is practicing specificity and acceptance.

They helped me, A LOT. Perhaps they’ll help you or someone you know who is in the same situation.


mary anne radmacher, taking notes on the knowing of John F. Ptak

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