If you are like most of us you are not a big fan of asking for help.
Although you might utilise this strategy in an effort to cultivate creativity, research shows that not asking for help is most often our default reaction, rather than a choice, due to a fear of possible rejection or disappointment.
This article’s aim is to remind us of our choice and bring attention it some of the limiting beliefs many of us have developed over the years around asking others for help.
To be clear, I am a recovering addict of self-sufficiency. Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking helped shine a light into a corner of my emotional world I had been keeping partitioned off since childhood.
In the spirit of keeping this article short, one big idea on this topic of asking for help is to realise that we have wrongly associated asking for help with vulnerability and rejection.
We’ve mistakenly learned to ask for help from a belief that the person we are asking holds the power in the exchange. So the request is coming from a position of shame or weakness rather than a more empowered mindset.
On the flip side, at other times we have asked for help coming from a point of expectation which happens when we feel power over another person. This often results in a feeling of disappointment in the asking process and possible resentment on their part.
The reality is that asking for help should be seen as a collaboration between two parties where both can receive value in the exchange. This type of asking can come from a place of respect, one that focuses on helping one another where there is no judgment tied to the outcome. There is a request and a response that becomes mutually beneficial for, or at least equally appreciated by both parties.
Whether help is ultimately given in the common form of time or money is immaterial. Sometimes people will decide to help and other times they won’t feel able to. What matters is whether you are approaching the request from a place of respect and that you remain open to whatever choice the person makes.
So what can this concept of asking look like in business? Obvious examples can be seen in sales. You likely know some salespeople who don’t ask their customers to buy their products and services out of fear of rejection. Others set their expectations of their customers far too high, inevitably leading to disappointment. Whichever perspective they may take, most salespeople could improve their ability to have win/win interactions with customers where they share what is important to them and elicit similar insights from the customers.
This skill of asking for help reaches far beyond sales, applying to all aspects of company dynamics. How about a boss asking a direct request for help on a project? Often the boss doesn’t want to be disappointed in the employee so they never ask in the first place. This can lead to the mentality of “if you want something done right, do it yourself”, which in turn can create frustration, annoyance and sheer exhaustion. Other bosses might not want to inconvenience the other team member because they are already busy or there may be fear around looking incompetent or admitting one’s own shortcomings.
All these scenarios don’t end as well as if the boss were simply to be open and able to ask for help in a collaborative and respectful way. At the very least, they demonstrate their humanity to another team member and likely gain more goodwill with them even when no help can be given. Others may result in the boss receiving some additional and unexpected support.
To be clear, just asking for help isn’t good enough because when it is done poorly it is often detrimental to relationships, appearing demanding and irresponsible. Our opportunity here is to gain more courage in receiving what we really want and need by asking for help in a way where that creates value for both parties with a lack of judgement on the outcome. Respecting a person’s willingness to help, regardless of the effectiveness and ultimate results of that assistance, is the first step to a stronger, mutually accepted relationship.
So get out there and ask people for what you really want. Just be sure you do it in a collaborative and respectful way!
And until next time, enjoy the process!
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