The difference between “do you want help?” and “how can I help?”

It’s amazing how much of a difference it can make when you ask the same question a different way.

Time and time again, my husband asks me “do you want help?” Most of the time my response is “no it’s okay, I’ve got it” or “no it’s all good, I’m nearly finished.” He’ll often follow up with “you sure? I’m happy to help” but I give the same responses.

So many things go through my head when he asks if I want help (even though it’s the simplest question!). I start off thinking to myself he doesn’t really want to help, don’t make him. Then I’ll think it’s easier for me to just do it my way. Then I end up thinking yeah, he should be helping me, it’s his stuff too! So what starts with me saying “no it’s okay” ends with me being disgruntled. It’s no surprise men joke about women saying one thing but meaning another.

We’ve often had follow up conversations about household chores. I will say things like “I just want to you to notice that something needs to be done and do it” and he will say “I’m happy to do anything, just tell me exactly what to do.” I’ll usually then comment that it’s a husband/wife relationship, not that of parent/child.

By this point you’re probably thinking what is wrong with you? You have a husband who consistently asks if you want help and that’s not ideal for you?! Let me explain.

“Do you want help?” is a closed question, meaning it’s a question that requires a yes or no answer. It’s a question that doesn’t make the intentions of the other person clear. Asking “do you want help?” is not synonymous with “I want to help you.”

“How can I help you?” on the other hand communicates something different. It’s an open question, allowing the receiver to answer with sentences, not one word answers. Structuring the question this way communicates willingness and availability. It makes it pretty clear that your true intention is to help. If someone asks you how they can help, the word “no” doesn’t actually make sense as a reply.  This then makes accepting the offer of help much easier to do.

When you’re a parent, gone are the days of being able to lay on the couch all day and watch the world go by. There is always something that needs doing.

If you intend on helping each other with the mundane tasks, and you follow through on your intentions, your relationship will be stronger because of it.

The bottom line is, who doesn’t want help? Don’t say “do”. Say “how.”

Set positive intentions for the week ahead and make them come to fruition.

Beth x

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