Asking for Help Part I: Harder for Some Personality Types than Others

“Ari?” My father’s voice was soft. “Ari, Ari, Ari. You’re fighting this war in the worst possible way.”
“I don’t know how to fight it, Dad.”
“You should ask for help,” he said.
“I don’t know how to do that, either.”

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”

Do You Hesitate to Ask for Help?

When was the last time you asked for help? How did you feel about it?

If you’re like most of us, there may have been a concern about appearing “needy, weak, or incompetent” when you asked. In our competitive world, we view independence as a virtue. That often renders the act of asking for help as a flaw. It’s tough to ask for help even – or perhaps especially – when we need it.

Few are immune to the difficulties that can be inherent in asking for help. However, as with most things, people with certain personality traits will approach asking for help more freely than others. To discover which, we asked our community to respond to the statement: “You often hesitate to ask for help even if you really need it.” The following is based on their many responses. We’ll discuss personality theory here in part one of this article series, and talk about when to ask for help and offer advice for everyone in part two.

Asking for Help and the Introverted / Turbulent Personality Traits

Introversion seems to be the biggest factor in determining the likelihood of hesitating to ask for some help. As a separate trait, this is followed by Turbulence. We can see how this plays out by looking at how individuals with different personality Strategies responded to the statement.

One might think, just by the name alone, that people with the Constant Improvement Strategy would have an easy time asking for help. Can’t a great adviser or supporter of any kind help you improve if they just know what you need? Wouldn’t asking for help be a good step toward that? However, one would be wrong if they thought that seeking help is easier for these personalities. With their combination of Introverted and Turbulent personality traits, Constant Improvers were the responders most likely to say they hesitate to ask for help.

Why might this be? Probably a lot of things contribute, but perhaps their cluster of characteristics tells the story best. This group of Introverts, with their tendency toward privacy, also aspire to reach perfection. Because of this, they may worry about whether they are hitting all the marks or not. The keyword here is “worry.”

So, asking for help may be problematic for these people. Doing so might highlight the flaws that, as Turbulent personalities, they work so hard to extinguish, and as Introverts, they might prefer to deal with such flaws in private. Asking for help might be difficult if they would rather hide the things they need help with.

Confident Individualism was the second highest Strategy to hesitate to ask for help. The thing these personalities share with the Constant Improvement Strategy is the Introverted trait. So, privacy is probably the bigger issue with Confident Individualists. Their confidence allows them to ask a little more freely than their Constant Improver cousins. They are also less likely to care what others think, which may balance out their privacy needs to a degree.

If we look at the flip side of this, consider Extraverts. They are the classic “people who need people.” It’s almost natural for them to pull other people into their problems by asking for help.

As a comparison, the People Mastery Strategy is defined by the Extraverted and Assertive personality traits. People Masters were the least likely personalities to say they hesitated to ask for help. Neither overly private nor having excessively high expectations for themselves, they would have little trouble fitting a request for help into their overall style of doing things.

Asking for Help and the Rest of the Personality Traits

Introverted and Turbulent personality traits are not the only ones that play into a greater chance of being reluctant to seek help.

Intuitive and Observant

Intuitive personalities were more likely to say they hesitated than Observant responders. Observant people are practical people. Intuitive people approach situations with less of a need for pragmatic solutions and more as a foray into something interesting. They are more prone to delve into the implications of a problem rather than its nuts and bolts. For Observant people, getting help would just be the more efficient thing to do. If you need help, you need help. Why waste time worrying about it?

Prospecting and Judging

Those with the Prospecting personality trait were a little more likely than those with the Judging trait to say they were hesitant to ask for help. All things being equal, Prospecting individuals are more likely to follow their whims and go their own way. This suggests perhaps more independence than Judging individuals, who are likely to see asking someone for help as fitting somewhere within their orderly protocols.

Thinking and Feeling

The space between the Thinking trait and the Feeling trait stats was almost nonexistent. The same was true of the indistinguishable results between Analysts and Diplomats. They were the two Roles with the highest percentage of “yes” answers. Both share the core Intuitive personality trait, with their only difference being that all Analysts have the Thinking trait and all Diplomats have the Feeling trait. There is little difference between the two when it comes to asking for help.

Putting It All Together

To provide specific examples of traits influencing how eager one is to ask for help, let’s look at the highest- and lowest-scoring individual personality types. Turbulent Mediators (INFP-T) were the type with the highest percentage (89%) of “yes” responses to our statement. Almost nine out of 10 said they’d hesitate to ask.

One of the most striking things about these Diplomats is that they are Introverted, Intuitive, and Prospecting. That’s a trifecta of personality traits that make them less likely to ask for help. Given their privacy needs influenced by the less practical Intuitive trait and connected to the more independent Prospecting trait, their ranking in our poll makes total sense.

The personality type with the lowest percentage (or those least hesitant to ask for help) were Assertive Consuls (ESFJ-A) at 49% (almost five out of 10). They are almost pure opposites of Turbulent Mediators. These two personalities share only the Feeling trait, which, again, has no statistical impact on the outcome.

Assertive Consuls are gregarious and outgoing in all the most practical ways. They are likely to feel more comfortable than others asking for help – possibly because their combination of personality traits results in their support of others. When lending help is mutual and equalizes things, it is perhaps easier to petition others for help.

It’s important to add that no trait fell below the 50% mark. Most were well above it. That means that at least a simple majority or more of almost every personality type (besides Assertive Consuls) were hesitant to ask for help. By our reckoning, an average of seven out of 10 people (around 71%) answered that they hesitated to ask for help. That says a lot about the vast number of people who lack a sense of ease when it becomes necessary to reach out.

Our poll may inadvertently describe what is required to more comfortably ask for help:

  • First, being outgoing and social is helpful to the process. If you keep to yourself too much, you are less likely to ask for help. However, if you are social enough to interact with others, you’ll likely be more relaxed about looking for an assist.
  • Second, if you’re perfectionistic and too concerned with your flaws, you may feel that asking for help exposes weaknesses. Asking for help may feel like you’re showing too many of your cards in the poker game of life. But you may have to be willing to be a little more vulnerable if help is needed.
  • Third, it seems that the more practical you are, the more ease you’ll experience when requesting help. It makes sense. “No man is an island,” as John Donne reminded us. Asking for help in some situations might be among the most practical things one can do.

Humankind came together and went tribal many millennia ago to mutually benefit one another and provide strength in numbers. While the help we give each other has taken different forms throughout our history, one thing remains consistent: we need each other.

Now, all we have to do is ask.

And we’ll talk more about how to do that in part two.

Further Reading

Asking for Help Part II: Some Stories Personality Types Tell Themselves

Easily Overwhelmed Personality Types

Willingness to Help Others by Personality Type

What’s Next?: The Struggle of Constant Improvement