Asking for Help

I have a confession to make.  I’m not very good at asking for help.  There are probably a lot of reasons for it, none of which are interesting enough to dissect here. There was a time, though, when I  thought it didn’t matter…that in fact, asking for help was a sign of weakness.  And, it meant obligation.  Besides, there was always that, um, rejection factor.  You know the one.

Lately though, I am learning that the weakness does not lie in the asking.  It lies in the not asking.

In leadership this is equally true.

In my observation, Leaders who know how to ask for help; use the help that is offered; and appreciate the value of it, show strength, both of purpose and character.

So, if you are like me and want to get better at it, where might we start?  Well, here’s what I’ve been telling myself lately:

Before asking for help, know what you need help with

In my experience there is never a shortage of people willing to help.  In fact, helping is, I think, something that comes quite naturally to most human beings. Having said that, people who are willing to help should not be mistaken for mind readers.  Some may be uber intuitive and able to discern what is needed without much discussion. But, most people will need some guidance and direction.  The less specific you are in explaining your needs, the greater the possibility they will not be met.

Note to self:  Be more planful.  Know what you want.  Learn to express it clearly.

When you know what you need help with, ask the right people

It is one thing to know what to ask for.  It is entirely another to know who to ask.  This requires you to understand and appreciate the skills and knowledge that others have to offer.  And it means spending time with people and coming to understand what they are good at.  When you know what they’re good at, you will generally know too, where their interests lie; what they like to do; and what they would be happy to help you with.

Note to self:  Ask your favourite computer geek to help you understand more about the Internet.  Do not ask him to help you fix your leaky faucet.  No doubt, he has one of his own at his house.

Accept what is offered with grace

Sometimes the help that is needed is advice, or another perspective on something you have been struggling with.  When what you really want is validation and what you need, and get, is something different, it’s tempting to rationalize it away.  The thing is, people who offer another perspective on a particular situation, even if it doesn’t fit with your view of the world, are giving you an opportunity to think and do something different to help yourself.  And that is an offering not to be discounted.

Note to self: Say “Thank you” not “Sorry I asked” no matter what someone might tell you.  A risk was taken to offer it.  Gratitude trumps disgruntlement.

So, what are your thoughts? What benefits have you experienced from simply asking for help?  What gets in your way?  What is the value to you of getting better at asking for help?

And just for fun, here are the Beatles, who ironically, don’t  look as if they need any help at all.  Enjoy.

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13 Comments

Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Employee engagement, Learning, Self Knowledge

13 responses to “Asking for Help

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  3. Ginny

    Thank you for the great post. I do believe there are many folks out there that struggle with asking for help. There are certain area’s of my life that asking comes easy and other areas were it it more difficult. I do believe once the asking is out there, that we find relief and comfort in knowing someone is a part of this with us.
    I really enjoyed the “notes to self” and how you slipped your sense of humor in there!
    Keep writing!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Ginny,

      I think you’re right. Once you’ve asked and received a positive response, there is a kind of relief that happens. Burden-sharing makes the load lighter for everyone. Thanks for making that point and for coming by! 🙂

  4. Hi Gwyn,

    I really enjoyed this post and I suck at asking for help. My husband is great at it. I admire that about him. When he needs a ride, a day off from work or someone to help him with a project – he has no problem asking the right people and getting help. I haven’t quite figured out why it’s so difficult for me to ask for help. Maybe I’m afraid of manipulating, taking the easy way out or appearing to be greedy for personal gain? Probably a pride thing? … Thanks for making me think!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Anna,

      I love your candour! As mentioned, I kind of suck at asking for help too.
      There are a myriad of reasons why those of us who need or want help are reticent to ask for it.
      I don’t know about you but the tapes that run in my head tell me that asking for help means I am imposing myself on someone else’s time.

      I’m working on shifting that perspective. This is the lens I’m choosing to look through now.

      “Asking for help means I am willing to include others and accept that receiving their help with grace is as much a gift to them as it is to me.”

      How does that land on you?

      Thanks for your comment Anna and for making me think…some more 🙂

  5. Leslie Robinson

    I think sometimes I don’t ask for help because I secretly think I don’t deserve it. I try to remind myself that I feel good when I help others, and why wouldn’t they feel the same when they help me?

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Leslie,

      Yes, I know what you mean. I have felt that way too…still do sometimes.

      But I think you say it all here: “I feel good when I help others, and why wouldn’t they feel the same when they help me?”

      Right on! 🙂

  6. Anna Smith

    Hi Gwyn and Leslie,

    These are definitely encouraging thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I just read this very interesting post by Rajesh Setty (http://www.rajeshsetty.com/2010/09/15/the-secret-advantage/) and this part reminded me of this conversation:

    “Growing up in India teaches everyone the need to ask for help without feeling guilty. Everyone needs help there. When you need to travel to some place, you will need help. When you need to deal with a government agency, you will need help. When you need anything—whether it’s simple or complex, you will need help. It becomes a part of life’s pattern there.”
    – this makes asking for help seem so natural, humane and good… 🙂

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Yes, I see what you mean. When *everyone* is asking for help it becomes a way of life rather than an aberration.
      Anna, thanks so much for coming back and for the link. 🙂

  8. Another great post Gywn. Asking for the right level of help, (too easy to let them take over) from the right person is not always easy. Takes practise! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      That’s a good point! Knowing what level of help to ask for is often a toughie. There is a difference between asking for help and off-loading.

      Thanks for coming by Dorothy. I am still a work in progress when it comes to asking for help so the reminder is for me too. 🙂

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