I’m always puzzled when a client is reluctant to ask for help. Maybe that’s because I built one of my careers on asking for help. When my husband, Bo, and I started our software company I became an instant product manager – meaning that I had to learn a bunch of technology stuff quickly. And, believe me, this was different tech from my electric typewriter with its paragraph of memory.
How did I get up to speed quickly? I learned to ask for help. Bo used his connections to set me up with people who were willing to help me master the technology I needed to know. Believe me, I needed guidance. So I asked questions, used what I learned, then asked better questions. And here’s the most important thing I learned: people, even very busy people were willing to assist me because they wanted to see me succeed.
Maybe we just forget to ask for help. We get so wrapped up in pushing through problems, believing we have to solve them on our own. Wonder what would happen if we paused and entertained the question, “Is there someone who could help me through this?”
Maybe we don’t ask for help in these situations because we’re afraid someone will think we’re stupid or they’ll tell us what to do. What we’re really doing is asking for input to help us access options that we can’t see. We’re expanding our perspective.
We don’t have to ask for a solution, we can ask for ideas or guidance. Perhaps the most valuable form of help in these situations is to ask someone to brainstorm with us for a couple of minutes. The throw some ideas at the wall and see what sticks type of brainstorming.
When we ask for help, we can take what works for us and leave the rest. We don’t have to do every single thing that’s suggested to us. We get to choose. We can use our discernment to choose what’s best for our unique situation.
People want to help
Interestingly, I have the most trouble getting my younger clients to ask for help. They just don’t get that adults they don’t even know want to help them. While working with one of my first clients (who was still in college), I kept emphasizing that people wanted to help him. We talked about asking friends of his parents for assistance finding internships and work. But he just wouldn’t do it.
So I decided to set up a mock interview for him with an old friend, Jeff, who loves to mentor young people. I’ll never forget our conversation after their meeting. He just couldn’t get over how much Jeff was willing to help him!
Fast forward to this weekend when I checked in with a friend about a crazy situation she had to deal with at work. She unraveled the situation and found a $15 million dollar problem with their budget – one day before an audit. It was a huge save for the company on many levels.
After she figured out the situation, one of the men she works with told her she should ask for a raise. But she was hesitating. I thought she should at least ask for a bonus. She responded with, “I’ll need to think about how to bring it up.” So I suggested she ask the guy who said she should ask for a raise. She was thrilled with the suggestion.
Break the Glass Ceiling – With Help
And I know he’ll be thrilled to help her. Here’s what I know: many men are as invested as us women in demolishing the glass ceiling. I hear about it all the time from clients. But it’s hard to make a difference if no one asks you for help.
So, what really happens when we ask for help? Don’t we appear weak? Aren’t we imposing on the person we ask for help? Isn’t figuring it out on our own the strong, independent, professional thing to do?
No. No. And no. I’m convinced that asking for help is a gesture of respect. It says to the person we’re asking, “I know you have knowledge that you can share. Will you share it with me?” It also lets the person know that you see them and appreciate their point of view. I always think it’s a privilege to be asked to help. Even when I have to say no.
Also, asking for help allows others to be generous and give back. I know that when someone asks for my help, I instantly flash back to times my friends and mentors have helped me. And it makes me feel great. Looking at you Maggie, Kyle, and Karen.
Asking for help can be a source of unexpected delight – on both sides. I’ve even had my mentors ask me for help. Talk about a thrill! At first I couldn’t imagine how I could help them, and then I just grinned because of all the things I was feeling – gratitude, respect, privilege.
I’m going to leave you with this quote from the author, Meg Cabot:
Sometimes in life, you can fall down holes you can’t climb out of by yourself. That’s what friends and family are for – to help. They can’t help, however, unless you let them know you’re down there. – Meg Cabot