Here’s How to Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "No More Mr. Nice Guy" by Robert Glover. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know how to help someone who doesn’t want help? What are some reasons someone might not want to ask for help?

For various reasons, people who are struggling might not ask for help. Understanding the reasons, and reading our tips for how to help someone who doesn’t want help, might empower them to make that all-important step to reach out.

Find out how to help someone who doesn’t want help below.

Why People Refuse to Ask for Help

To understand how to help someone who doesn’t want help, it’s important to first understand why they don’t want help in the first place. This is different for everyone, but here are two possible reasons:

1) They Want to Fix It Themselves

In their quest to be needless saints that must “fix” everything themselves, someone who doesn’t want help is often a poor receiver. When someone tries to attend to their needs—emotional, sexual, work-related, or otherwise—they challenge his negative beliefs about his self-worth and cause inner tension.

To avoid these negative feelings, they will unconsciously avoid situations where their needs are likely to be met. For example, they’ll seek out needy people, communicate in vague ways, and self-sabotage. And because they rely on covert contracts (assuming no one wants to meet their needs) they rarely ask for help.

Or, they might not want to be a burden. Although they might use it in an unproductive way, “low maintenance” can be used as a positive descriptor—a haircut that doesn’t require much upkeep, for example. It’s when we apply this term to human behavior and our relationships that the concept becomes problematic. 

According to marriage and family therapist Sarah Epstein, the desire to be seen as “low maintenance” often comes from a place of fear. We might fear being viewed as “needy” or fear abandonment if our needs become “too much” for others. She explains that this mindset often develops in childhood when parents ignore, downplay, or overreact to a child’s needs—emotional or otherwise. Epstein emphasizes that because being a selfless caretaker and malleable people-pleaser becomes the goal of the “low maintenance” person, the desire to appear needless—much like the victim mindset—is tied to a rejection of the self.

2) They’re Stuck in a Victim Mentality

Psychoanalyst Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries defines the victim mentality as a belief that all control over your life rests in the hands of external forces. This can lead to angry outbursts and defensiveness. Essentially, their feelings of powerlessness turn into a rage that gets taken out on the innocent people around them. 

De Vries adds a final rescuer stage, in which the “victim” decides to “rescue” others in an attempt to fix everyone’s problems except their own. When someone tries to help the “victim” in return, they invent reasons to resist this assistance so as to unconsciously affirm their victim status and elicit more attention. 

De Vries believes the best way to break this cycle is to self-reflect and develop a healthy self-image.

Helping Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help

We’ve discussed earlier in this article how the victim mentality can cause this type of resistance to support—so, what do you do when you want to help someone who doesn’t want help? Experts have some advice:

Here’s How to Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Robert Glover's "No More Mr. Nice Guy" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full No More Mr. Nice Guy summary:

  • Why being a "Nice Guy" isn't actually a good thing
  • Why Nice Guys miss out on a life of self-acceptance, empowerment, and satisfaction
  • How to know if you are a Nice Guy and how to become an "Ideal Man" instead

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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