When I sat down to write this blog, I wasn’t really sure why or when the stigma around asking for help was born. I thought… Maybe it’s our pride. Maybe it’s a pressure to be able to do things by yourself. Maybe it’s just the fear that someone will say no. And, come to find out, I wasn’t too far off.
I looked into this. Psychological studies have shown that, particularly in the workplace, the social threats involved — the uncertainty, risk of rejection, the potential for diminished status, and inherent relinquishing of autonomy — activate the same brain regions that physical pain does.
Yet, asking for help is one of those things you have to know how to do in order to get through life successfully. The old adage “there’s no ‘I’ in team” … that plays well here.
With that in mind, how can we ask for help the right way? How can we overcome these obvious social and mental obstacles to “play well with others” and making asking for help part of our story of success?
Here are a few thoughts:
#1. Communicate Your Need Effectively
According to Heidi Grant, who has done a great TED Talk on this topic, the first step in asking for help successfully (and — getting a yes) is to make sure you’re being specific with your request.
You can probably relate to this. We all have that one coworker who casually brings up a new project — only to leave the room without any clear pathway or strategy to accomplish the goal. Later that week, they ask if you’ve made any progress. But you’re scratching your head on what you were supposed to do.
Moral of the story? Be specific with what you need and how someone can help you. “Could you pull me a list of the most active customers this quarter?” Or… “Can you help me with this charity project by emailing your sphere to let them know the date of the function?”
#2. Share How Their Help Will Help
People want to know how their help will help you. When you’re communicating your needs, be sure to explain how this help will actually HELP.
Perhaps this is the human ego at work. But, several of the articles I read on this topic suggest that our human motivation is formed on the basis that we believe our actions will create the result we intended. So, if you share with people how their help will, in fact, help — you’re taking a step in the right direction.
#3. Don’t Be Sketchy
This one is probably a no-brainer to some, but it should probably still be spelled out. When asking for help — don’t be sketchy.
Asking for help doesn’t have to include a disclaimer, an apology, a trade, or anything of the sort.
Asking for help can be just that… asking for help.
#4. Remember the Human Element
If you’ve read some of my blogs in the past, you know that I’m big on “the human element” — and it applies here, too. I just don’t think it’s polite (or right) to seek help via text message or email or Snapchat or Instagram or Facebook or Twitter …. You get the point.
Remember the human element. Be personable. Grab lunch. Grab a coffee. Speak candidly. Be respectful of the person’s time and energy and expertise…
Lastly, I think it’s important to thank the person for their help and share the results. After all, you’re building a relationship. The last time you helped someone, did they follow-up and share the results with you? Did they thank you? If they did, how did that make you feel?
I think we’re actually all eager and willing to help people — we want to make a difference. But, it’s a huge buzzkill when the relationship stops at the ask.
I’d love to hear some of your stories about times people have asked you for help or when you’ve requested help. Let’s carry the conversation over to my LinkedIn page!