I married a southern lady. She’s the daughter of a southern lady and sister to five southern ladies. Through the many years of our marriage, I have learned that southern women do not like to ask for help. I’ve tried various responses to this very unique quality of southern women. None has worked, until just recently. Obviously, it’s taken me a long time to figure this one out, but it just so happens that it fits right in with the theme of “giving” that I’ve been writing about lately.
Why don’t they ask for help?
I’m no psychologist, and I’ll never say THIS is the definitive reason, but I think it’s summed up well in Miranda Lambert’s recent hit single, “Mama’s Broken Heart.” Get a grip, and bite your lip, just to save a little face. Now, we’re not talking about breakups here, just basic, everyday help. Southern women are strong. That’s one of the biggest reasons I married my wife (that, and the fact that she said “yes”), and I am one man who really appreciates that southern belle strength.
That said, the reason southern ladies don’t like to ask for help is, for the most part, the same reason none of us like to ask for help. Southern belles just seem to take it to another level. The simple answer is pride: we don’t want to appear weak. Who does? Nobody does, but when we ask for help, we are actually giving.
How is asking for help actually “giving”?
To answer this question, we have to look outside ourselves and into those around us. To do that, we have to take a look at a very basic human need. We all want – no, we all need – to belong. Belonging to something gives us a purpose. I recall a great scene from “Mad Men” (Season 3 Episode 13), in which the original three from Sterling Cooper were in a confrontation with the financial representative from the firm that had acquired them. With the four of them in the room, they all looked around at one another to discover that each of them owned a major part of what was needed to run an advertising firm: sales, accounting, creative, and managing partner. Don Draper delivered the kicker: “Can you do what he does?”
They had realized that Lane Pryce did what none of them could do. They needed him.
And there’s the thing: we all need to belong, and belonging means being needed. That’s why asking someone to do something with the words, “I need you to do…” is a very effective approach. In asking someone for help, we are giving them the gift of being needed. When we ask for help, we give someone the thing every person needs.
People need to be needed
In any marriage, the two become one, and the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Each spouse brings things to the marriage that the other needs, some less obvious than others. To make my point a little clearer, imagine being married to someone who does not need you. What a painful realization that must be. Conversely, think of the gift it is to realize that the person you married really, really needs you.
Demonstrating your need is a gift to the person you need.
The recent situation that brought about my latest response to southern female
stubbornness strength, had the desired effect. My wife is a strong southern woman, and she does not like to ask for help. Recently, she was in one of those positions that she needed help, but she did not ask for it. The situation had two parts: loading and unloading. For the loading part, I didn’t ask if she needed help. I just did the job that needed doing.
For the second part, I asked. Naturally, she declined, citing the major inconvenience to my schedule. Knowing that she actually did need help, but would naturally refuse, I obliged, and then did the job anyway. My actions were met with a little humor mixed with that beautiful southern pride: “Well! I could’ve done it myself!” It’s true. She could have, but it was definitely at least a two-person job.
That’s when I responded with this newfound approach to southern strength: “Darlin’, people need to be needed.” She stopped in her tracks. “Oh.”
Ask for Help!
The next time you need help, but are too prideful or “southern strong” to ask for it, try thinking about it a different way. Someone you know needs to be needed. When you ask them for help, you are giving them a tremendous gift. You give them the gift of being needed. Then remember that, when you give this gift, your brain is going to give you a nice shot of dopamine, and you’re going to feel really good.
Imagine that: feeling good because you gave the gift of asking for help. Ask for help.