When someone is reluctant to take help, but you KNOW they need it. It happens. I’ve experienced it from both sides now. Truth be told, both sides of this coin are difficult. This is one time when it sometimes seems like, whether you flipped heads or tails, both parties still lose.
It goes something like this: Helpful Person walks up and says, “I know it’s been rough. I’d like to bring you dinner sometime this next week or two.” And Life-Is-Falling-Apart Person, or LIFA, hems and stalls, because it’s difficult to accept help. It is. Mentally, the LIFA is probably rearranging the calendar, trying to figure it out, and working out a way to say that actually s/he has only eaten organic yogurt and raw honey for dinner the past week, when s/he has eaten at all, so… really… there’s no point.
Here’s where it goes a few different ways. Helpful Person can instantly back off from the situation, and that’s it. Or Helpful Person can continue to gently insist, pointing out that they’d like to do this for you, as well as others. It’s a gift to let them help at this point in time.
There’s song lyrics about knowing when to call and when to fold. Offering help is much the same dance. A little bit of resistance to accepting help, especially it seems in the West, is practically a cultural norm. Independent pioneer spirit and all forbids someone in need from actually admitting helplessness. It’s also humiliating to admit that you’re no longer capable of lifting a laundry basket or driving a car. So as badly as help may be needed, it can be so very difficult to accept. Gracefully accepting help is going to be another post, though. This is about gently overcoming that natural reluctance to have someone else scrub three weeks’ worth of dirty undies.
Offer help. Then once the initial squeamishness is detected, offer again. Say that it is something you can do, and you desperately need to do this, that this is a gift the person can actually give you, by letting you help. That’s right. Guilt trip time. If there is more squeamishness, start gently wheedling out why. It may be that someone is reluctant to accept dinner because s/he is only eating peanut butter. Some reassurance that you are capable of actually doing whatever it is you are offering AND working around their needs/schedule may need to be applied. If there is significant upset or resistance, back off. But if this is a situation where there is a clear need, don’t relent. It might take a few gently abrading passes to wear down the target. Sometimes even a direct attack — I’m going to bring over a casserole and six dumb movies! — might work with a close friend. But be sure you know the person well before attempting the direct attack! Even if your target doesn’t ever accept, though, you have given that person one thing that the person may hold close — that you are there and cared enough to offer.