‘Can you help me?’
How does that question make you feel? Embarrassed or empowered? Nervous or bold? Weak or strong?
I believe that asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. However, recently I have found myself holding back on asking for help and I have had to dig deep to work out why. I discovered I was telling myself some unhelpful stories about being a burden by asking for help and that asking for help was removing people’s choice and making them feel obliged to help me. I have reflected on this a lot over the past week or so.
If you don’t feel perfectly comfortable asking that question, ‘Can you help me?’ my insights may be useful for you too...
1. Think about how I feel when being asked for help. Remember that people like helping because they like to be part of others’ success. They may be flattered that I've asked them, they may get something out of helping me for themselves or they may just genuinely WANT to help me. I LOVE helping others – why wouldn’t someone love helping me?
2. Be genuine and authentic at all times - I think it's ok to say I don't want to be a burden on someone, and I also think it's ok to say I want their help because I really think they could help me. I also think explaining genuinely why I want their help from a place of authenticity is always appreciated. Linking back to my big ‘why’ and my values is important here – for example, I am often wanting help with my work so I can help more people. Not asking for help is literally helping no one!
3. Be specific and clear about what I am asking for – explain what I need and why I am asking them for that help. Sometimes saying 'I need help' is perfectly fine, but I think asking people for something specific with clear boundaries of what that help might look like allows people to know if they can or want to say yes or not.
4. At the same time, don’t minimise my request or apologise for asking (e.g. 'I only want a minute', 'I am sorry to have to ask', or 'I am ever so sorry for bothering you with my needs'). I can still be polite and genuine without doing this as this could make my request seem less important and less valuable. Why would someone want to help me if it doesn’t seem to be something of value to me? This feels a bit counterintuitive – because I don’t want to be a burden and ask too much – but sharing how valuable their help would be could be more beneficial. I know I like to help people when I know my help is valuable.
5. Put out the energy I want into the world. I can help others in the same way I would like to be helped. Why should I expect help if I don't help other people? Offer help, say yes to requests for help, look for ways I can help, pay it forward and be open to receiving help. I want to create a world where people ask for help freely and easily so holding back on asking and not giving help isn’t creating that world. Also, when someone helps me, say thank you. Be grateful. Tell them how impactful their help was. This will help them feel good and it will probably increase the likelihood that they will help in the future (not just helping me, but helping in general). Wouldn’t the world be a better place if that were the case?
6. Be detached. It’s important to remember that it’s not personal. If someone doesn’t help me, it's probably not about me - it could be timing, their capacity at that moment, their own self-belief (do they think they can help?), their feelings or all manner of things. Of course, I can respect people in what I ask for. Something I heard and liked the other day was, 'No-one has a monopoly on wisdom'. I think of that like having all my eggs in one basket - if I ask for help once and don't get it I may feel dejected – why don't I ask more people and probably get more back?
7. Finally, know what is in my control. I don’t have the power to make anyone feel obliged, or used, or anything else for that matter. Of course, I can minimise the chance of doing that, and I can maximise the chance they feel appreciated, valued and happy, but ultimately I cannot control anyone else’s feelings – nor would I want to. I can’t let the chance that someone might feel a certain way stop me doing what I need – especially in an authentic, respectful and grateful way.
Do not be afraid to ask for help.