If I ask you to guess what this one mistake is, I am sure, you will not even think about what I have in mind. We ambitious professionals want to acquire a variety of skills that will support us in our career and life, but we hardly ever think about “this” as one of those skills.
Last week, I went to a store with 2 of my friends. One friend and I drove in my car, and the other friend joined us there.
We arrived at almost the same time. As we were walking to the store, we saw our friend getting a bunch of things out of the trunk of her car. My friend instantly offered her help, and asked if she could carry some those with her.
To my surprise, our friend declined the help. She did it politely, but never the less she did it. She laughed it away by saying she is so used to carrying stuff around that she has gotten pretty good at it.
This seems like a simple incident. No harm done.
But THIS is the big mistake I am talking about that is costing us more than we know – NOT asking for help or graciously accepting help when offered.
Helping each other is one sure fire way of building a connection with another human being. When you don’t accept help or proactively ask for it, you are not only stressing yourself out by trying to do it all but you are missing out on a perfectly good opportunity to a build genuine connection.
Whether you ask a colleague to help you out with their input on a project, or ask your spouse to help you by picking up groceries – each of those times is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. And that’s how you should look at it.
When I was getting married, the mother of a close friend of mine gave me a valuable advice that has served me ever since. I asked her what the secret of her long and happy marriage is. This is what she said, and I am paraphrasing:
Remember, you need to allow your husband to help you. He knows you are independent. But when he sees that you want his help, he will know that you value him. For example, I can change a tire and oil in a car. But after we got married, I never did it myself. I ask his help in doing so. Similarly, he doesn’t shy away from showing me his appreciation, by asking for my help and input where he sees fit.
Mind you, both of them quite independent people – successful in their careers and life. Yet, when asked about their secret of a happy marriage, they talked about inter-dependence.
That’s the perspective we need. Thinking about asking for help is not being dependent on others. It is working together toward a common goal. It’s inter-dependence – the only thing better than being independent.
Now, I am going to debunk some myths that maybe keeping you away from asking for help. My goal here is to give you the confidence that you need in order to start using this as a tool to strengthen your professional and personal relationships. Trust me, that’s the best way to build your network.
Myth No. 1: People who get asked for help feel unnecessarily bothered.
Truth: Most people like to be asked to help. Why?
Simple gestures like carrying your things to the door or showing you a new keyboard short-cut, doesn’t take much time or effort. But it gives you some time to interact, and share something that you may not otherwise share. If not anything, it’s a “feel good” act in the eyes of most people.
For more time-consuming help that takes effort, it’s all about how you ask. If you position it as “help” / “guidance” or “expert advice” that you will “appreciate and value”, you are letting them know how much you care for it. Once they see how much it means to you, they will actually feel honored that you reached out to them than to anybody else. We human beings want to feel valuable, trustworthy, and experts. Why not give others that opportunity?
Every time I felt stuck or stumbled, I have intentionally asked help from people that I want to build a stronger connection with. That’s how I have met some of my best mentors, loving friends, and trusted colleagues. You cannot possibly go wrong in developing a network of high quality professionals.
Myth No. 2: I will look like an incompetent fool!
Truth: Nobody in this world knows everything. Even in your area of expertise, there will be points that you are not aware of. We all know this so most people are not going to blame you for not knowing everything.
And so what if they do? Seeking knowledge is the way of reducing what you don’t know. Give it a shot! What’s the worst that can happen?
Myth No. 3: I will not remain self-sufficient when I start asking for help.
Truth: Being self-sufficient is overrated! There, I said it.
I have nothing against being independent and being able to do it all. If you are that super human, more power to you.
But just because you “can” do it all, doesn’t mean you “should”.
Being self-sufficient doesn’t mean being overwhelmed, overworked, and always stressed. There is neither pride not honor is being constantly exhausted. If asking for help will help you enjoy life more, why not?
So swallow your pride, and allow others to help you live a more meaningful life. Life is more about “being” than just “doing”.
And if you are afraid that asking for help makes you vulnerable, know that it is a good thing to share your vulnerability. That is, seriously, the quickest way to connect to others on a purely “human” level – not as a friend, not as a fellow professional – but purely as a human.
Just see this video by Brene Brown to see what I am talking about.
Myth No. 4: People will think I am lazy.
Truth: Just because you are seeking some help doesn’t make you lazy. Yes, if you don’t do squat, and ask people to do everything for you under the pretense of “help”, you have every right to worry about it.
But most of us are not like that. Heck, we exhaust Google before we even dare asking a simple question to a coworker sitting right there with us. So don’t worry about appearing lazy.
Show (or tell) them what you have done so far, and where you are stuck. Always give a reason behind asking for help. E.g. “Will you accompany me to the store today? I am planning a farewell party for Nancy before she starts her new job. It will be really great to have your input while shopping since you have known her longer than I have.”
Remember: It’s all in the way you ask it.
Myth No. 5: If people can’t see I need help, they are not interested in helping at all.
Truth: This is THE biggest misconception that is keeping you away from asking for help – even when you desperately want it. This hurts your relationships – especially personal relationships – a LOT.
The truth is, nobody – including yourself – is a mind reader. We all look at life through different lenses – the lenses that are tinted by our personality, experiences, and thinking patterns.
What seems like a no-brainer conclusion for you, quite possibly, isn’t how it appears to others. Just because you would interpret a situation as the one where an involved person needs help, and you would offer it without asking, doesn’t mean the others see it that way.
And even if they perceive it like that, they may be hesitant in offering help for multiple reasons such as not to hurt your pride, not to offend you by questioning your ability, or simply because they are unwilling to help unless explicitly asked.
Whatever the reason is, you will not know unless you ask. If they really don’t want to help, they will say so. But don’t just assume that they should know, you need help.
When it comes to your relationships with your family members (mainly your spouse), you cannot hide behind the excuse that they should know when to help. Make it simple for them and you. Clearly tell them, and show them how they can help you. And then ask them to do that. Don’t micro-manage. Just allow them to reach the outcome in their own way.
If they don’t want to help, you are due for a different conversation.
But don’t assume they are not willing, without confirming that yourself. In many cases, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Human beings are social animals. We are wired to work as teams. That’s why we feel good after helping others.
There is nothing wrong in accepting that you need help. That does not make you any less competent, resourceful, or industrious.
When you accept that to yourself, feel free to reach out to others. You will soon develop connections with strong and giving people who want to help you reach your goals. Provide them the opportunity to show their expertise, and value. Appreciate what they have to offer because indirectly, they are preparing you to help others.
Finally, this is a tool to succeed at work and in life without being overwhelmed. Appreciate the power in that, and don’t shy away from giving as well as receiving what we all deserve.
Now it’s your turn:
Share in the comments, which one of these has been your hurdle in asking for help, and what does it do for you to have that awareness?
As always, I appreciate your time, and hope you found a takeaway that will enrich your career and life.
Thanks to stevepb at Pixabay for the featured image.