Help! How to Give It, Ask for It, and Accept It

with Deborah and Sophie Riegel


I was delighted to speak this week with a dynamic mother-daughter duo, Deborah and Sophie Riegel! Deborah Grayson Riegel is a keynote speaker, professor of leadership communication, and consultant. Her daughter, Sophie Riegel, is a Duke University student, speaker, and author. Together, they have just penned their second book called “Go to Help: 31 Strategies to Offer, Ask For, and Accept Help.” As the title suggests, this book is all about teaching readers how to be “help fluent” and know how to give and ask for the kind of help that is actually needed. Their book is a relatable, funny, and absolutely transformative read.

Back to the Basics…

“Go to Help” is not Deborah and Sophie’s first foray into authorship. They have each written a book independently, and this is their second book written together. Their first book is called “Overcoming Overthinking: 36 Ways to Tame Anxiety for Work, School, and Life.” Both Deborah and Sophie have struggled with anxiety disorders, and their hopes in writing both of these books have been to teach others what they have learned in their own lives about helping themselves, helping others, and receiving help from others–something we all can use guidance on, especially these days!

What Gets in Our Way?

A lot of us would probably say that asking for and receiving help is a pretty straightforward thing to do, right? Well, Sophie and Deborah explain that often, help is much more complicated than we think. We have to know what we are asking for, what the right help to give is, and how to constructively accept help from others. And often, we get it wrong. What stands in our way the most, Sophie told me, is our mindsets and the ways we default to helping in ways that are actually unhelpful. (I found out that I am so guilty of this–listen to the episode if you want to hear about it!)

Our Default Method for Help Isn’t Working

Deborah and Sophie share that oftentimes, our natural, biological instincts to help others hinder us from truly helping others in the ways they actually need it. Many of us (myself included!) jump straight to “fixing” when somebody asks for or needs help. While our intentions in these moments are admirable, Deborah hit home that intention does not equal impact. Often, what is most needed is not our knee-jerk reaction to fix the problem, but rather, as help-givers, we need to ask the person being helped for feedback. A simple question to ask somebody in need of help is, “is the help I’m giving you actually helping?” As the person being helped, then it is our job to be honest, and offer several options for more helpful help. Sometimes, we don’t want a problem fixed for us, but we just need somebody to commiserate with us, give us a pep talk, or offer encouragement. What are your favorite ways of being helped by others?

What if Somebody Needs Help But They Don’t Want It?

Deborah and Sophie are very clear on this point–if somebody is going to hurt themselves, others, or is being harmed we ALWAYS help them get safe. But outside of that scenario, if somebody doesn’t want our help, we need to stop and really ask ourselves if we are helping for ourselves or for them. Did you know that when we help, we get a rush of dopamine that makes us feel good? That’s why so many of us are eager to give help to others, which can be an amazing thing! But if the help we are offering is taking away somebody else’s agency, autonomy, or learning opportunity (or they’ve refused your help) then it is our responsibility to take a step back.

Who is this book for?

This book is for YOU! Seriously, I think everyone needs to read this book. Whether you’re a business leader, budding career professional, student, parent, or caregiver–there is a strategy for you to learn from about asking, giving, and receiving help. If everyone put these strategies into place, I really do believe that workplaces, families, and communities would be transformed. But don’t take my word for it–pick up a copy of the book yourself when it comes out!

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