No One Does It Alone: 4 Benefits of Asking for Help
Start Before You’re Ready. Recently, I saw those words written on the mirror in my cycling class and they struck a chord. They got me thinking about things I’ve done before I was actually ready. I’ve always been a “careful risk-taker,” at times relying more on intuition, than logic and rational reasons. I’m competitive, and I enjoy a good challenge. Whether it’s speaking at a conference, running for office or advancing my education, I’ve pushed myself right up to the ledge. But I have always needed help to scale down each mountain.
It was my own coach who helped me create a library of presentations for different conferences and other occasions for public speaking. A friend and fellow coach convinced me to run for the presidency of ICF Singapore, even though I had turned her down several times. And although my husband and I fell into fairly traditional family roles, he has always been incredibly supportive of my career and entrepreneurial endeavors. I’ve accomplished a lot that I could never have accomplished alone.
I’ve encountered resistance to my just-do-it philosophy at times. People say, “If only I had…” “If only I knew how…” “One day, when everything is perfect, I will…” It’s a mindset that is, at best demotivating, and at worst, paralyzing. What gets in the way of asking for help? What would be the catalyst to taking that first step toward asking for that help?
For many, the risk of rejection, criticism or feeling exposed is too great. They’d rather suffer than ask for help. The prospect of doing so can feel physically painful. Social psychologist Heidi Grant explains: “As research in neuroscience and psychology shows, the social threats involved—the uncertainty, risk of rejection, potential for diminished status, and inherent relinquishing of autonomy—activate the same brain regions that physical pain does.”
Uncover Your Resistance
First, consider what’s getting in the way of asking for support. Did you have a bad experience? Do you care too much about what others think? Acknowledge that you can’t control how others will feel or react; you can control only your own actions. To increase your chances of success, prepare for these conversations as you would for any other important undertaking.
In light of Grant’s article, there are three important motivators that are likely to boost your chances of a positive response if you evoke them when asking for help:
- Being part of the group – People want to belong and to feel that their contribution to the team is important
- Positive identity – Use language that acknowledges the person’s unique position or abilities to help you
- Personal efficacy – The desire to feel effective is a basic human motivation
It’s OK to be Vulnerable
Asking for help can indeed make one feel exposed or vulnerable. But as author and researcher Brene Brown suggests, sharing your vulnerability makes you more authentic. It’s better than indulging in perfectionism. “The belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame,” Brown says.
All competitive athletes rely on a support team. Who can you ask to help you lead you down the mountain?
What’s in It for You?
Four benefits of asking for help:
- You ease your workload – Asking for help lighten your load. According to Grant, “estimates suggest that as much as 75% to 90% of the help co-workers give one another is in response to direct appeals.” Along with a lighter burden, you may also get new ideas from those with similar experiences.
- You make new connections – If you find it hard to develop meaningful relationships with people at work, asking for help can be a great way to make new connections or enhance existing ones. Collaboration inspires employees to be more motivated and responsible.
- You push yourself to do something uncomfortable – Sometimes the first step is the hardest. Visualize what it will be like to have a conversation asking for help. Write down what you want to say and practice it. Language matters. No waffling, apologizing or minimizing your request.
- You find allies, and supporters – Effectively communicating with and influencing the right people at the right time is crucial to the success of any collaborative project—and to advancing your career.
What kind of help do you need most that a peer, colleague or team member could provide? If you work on what is holding you back from asking for help and prepare well for the conversation, you may be surprised by how many people would be more than willing to support you. Helping people makes everyone feel good. It’s a win-win.