Do you remember your first day in a new position? One of the first things you’re told when you get a new job is that you should ask questions. Your employer realized that though you may have been qualified to do the job you were hired for, you would likely need some help as you transitioned to your new role and got to know the new business culture. And, yet, it’s probably safe to say that many of us shy away from asking questions even when we’re encouraged to do so.
Asking for help, along with some things that we do on our own, is often one strategy that is used to get things done. You’ve probably heard many times that when you’re working on a project, you should involve others and delegate some tasks. Rather than sink under a swell of things to do, you should find someone who can lend a hand. In theory, this seems quite logical.
In practice, however, it can be difficult to do. Though we know that the end result can be a good one (e.g. project or task completion, better understanding of policy or practice), many of us don’t utilize this strategy as often as we should. This could be because:
- You think you can or should do it on your own.
- You’re afraid you will come off appearing weak or lacking in skill.
- You’re afraid no one will be willing to help.
Fear of any kind can hold us back and stop us from achieving even the smallest of goals. It’s possible that our fear of asking for something (rather than giving), in part, stems from cultural customs. Some of us may instinctively put others first, often compromising ourselves in the process. Whatever the reasons are for “going it alone,” there are ways to get past the fear and actually get the help you want.
One of the first things you can do is…
- Speak up. When you want to make a change in your life, telling those in your inner circle can provide the support you need to be successful. Similarly, one of the ways to combat your fear of asking for help is to let those around you know that you need a little assistance. You can do this in casual conversation or have a scheduled sit down with a specific person. The key is not to keep it a secret. I’ve often found that saying I need help well in advance of needing it, puts everyone on the alert and gives them a chance to say how they can help.
- Stay positive. You might find yourself in a negative tailspin, thinking that no one would be willing to help. But, in reality, the opposite is probably true. Recent studies have found that “people underestimated by as much as 50% the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help, across a range of requests occurring in both experimental and natural field settings.” People do tend to want to help, especially when responding to a reasonable request.
- Start small. Help others who want to help you by giving them one or two tasks. It’s much easier to say yes when they’re presented with a short list verses a laundry list of to-do items, and it also helps to…
- Be specific. Be clear about what you want. Instead of saying, “I want help with stuff around the house when you have some time,” ask: “Can you help dust and vacuum next Thursday afternoon?” Giving the details of what you need help with allows for better understanding of the scope of the job. It also lets the person you’re asking decide if it’s really feasible to pitch in given their own schedule.
- Match tasks with skill. Ideally, you will want to match a task with someone who (a) already has a high comfort level with the task and/or (b) has a real interest in doing it. You’ll be more likely to get the result you’re looking for and they won’t feel unduly burdened when you get the right person for the job. If your car broke down, you would hire a mechanic to fix the problem instead of the plumber.
It may take a bit of practice and you might choose to ask for help with only one or two particular things. Keep the end goal in mind and remember that, more often than not, our friends, family members, and coworkers want to see us succeed and are usually willing to contribute to that success. Just remember to thank them when you’ve made it through the weeds and return the favor when requested.