We all need support at times in our lives from our partners and friends, but what’s the best way of actually getting the support we need? A research paper from 2018 has shown that asking for support directly is the most effective way of gaining the support we need. This involves directly stating our need to our partner, explaining how they can fulfil our need, and asking them to fulfil it. Whereas indirect support seeking methods such as sulking, complaining, and/or displaying sadness tend more often than not to lead to less support, it essentially backfires.
So why is it that so often partners use indirect ways of trying to gain support from each other that many times end up backfiring? The answer is more often than not the fear of rejection and being vulnerable. All relationships require vulnerability and intimacy. Each time we ask for something from our partner or any other person we risk them rejecting our request.
In the research they found that partners with low self-esteem were much more likely to use indirect ways of gaining support and that these indirect support seeking methods more often than not led to negative support from their partners. Having low self-esteem makes the fear of asking directly for support greater and therefore partners with low self-esteem tend to use indirect support seeking methods much more often. Unfortunately by using indirect support seeking the very thing partners with low self-esteem are afraid of, their own rejection when asking for support, becomes much more likely.
Learning to be able to ask for support directly takes practise and courage especially if you are dealing with low self-esteem. If you struggle with asking for support it’s good to start with small steps. Choose a person who you trust the most and practise asking for support from them. This might be your partner or it might be a friend or a family member. Then as your confidence builds you can try asking for support from a wider range of people. At the same time as asking for support it is also helpful to notice if you start doing any indirect support seeking behaviours such as sulking or complaining. When you notice these behaviours, recognise that they aren’t helpful and instead think of the people you can turn to, and the direct ways that you can ask for support. You might send a message to a friend, call them, or even arrange to meet them so you can ask for support over coffee for example.
Takeaway: When seeking support from a partner or in any other relationship, the most effective way to gain their support is to directly say what your need is and how they can meet it. Sulking, criticising and other ways of indirectly seeking support often backfire and aren’t helpful.