People Want To Help You Succeed

Why do you need to know how to ask for help? Isn’t the goal to be independent, self-directed, not needing anyone’s help? No, not really. The most successful people have mastered the art of asking for help. Some even say it has been critical to their success. The design company IDEO is known for its culture of .

This series is about matching your actions to your intentions so they reflect you in the best way possible. Figuring out if people understand your intentions is hard to do on your own. You will need to ask someone for help.

Needing help doesn’t make you weak, in fact quite the opposite. It makes you strong, smart, resourceful, and realistic. Asking for help when you know you’re in over your head is strength.    – Anonymous

What To Ask

It’s so much easier for people to help you when they understand what you need. So, it’s important to take the time to formulate your request. You can use the language from this series “I’m doing a tune-up on my career and I realized that I don’t know if my actions match my intentions. I could use some help figuring out how I look from other people’s perspectives.” You could also say “I’m worried that people don’t understand me at work. Could you help me understand how people see me?” Practice asking the question in front of a mirror, checking your facial expression and body language to make sure you’re making the right impression.

Who To Ask

Then, carefully select who you approach for help. If you immediately think of someone you’d like to ask for help, go ahead and ask them. If no one comes to mind, start by thinking about who you already have a relationship with at work (or at school – this applies to high school and college, too) – somebody who gets you and who you feel comfortable talking to. If you still can’t identify anyone, think about people who appreciate you or have been willing to help you. Maybe it’s someone who gave a positive response to you in a meeting when you asked a question. Or, maybe it’s someone who you enjoyed working with on a project. Maybe it’s your manager – remember they hired you and want you to succeed. Only ask your manager (or teacher) if you know they get you.

Where and When To Ask

Don’t ask for help in the middle of the office in front of everyone. Instead, carefully approach your co-worker, checking to see if they are busy. Walk up to their workspace and, if you see that they’re not heads down working on something or on the phone, clear your throat or rustle a piece of paper to get their attention (in case they didn’t see you coming into their space). If they are heads down or on the phone, walk away and come back later.

Only when you have their attention do you ask them if they have a second to talk with you. This is when you use the question you figured out and practiced asking. Pay attention to their body language. Are they smiling at you? Are they looking at you, even if they’re not making direct eye contact? All of these are signs of their interest in you. See how they react. If they look uncomfortable (squirming around in their chairs, or they take a step back), let them know you realize this is a big favor and if they are uncomfortable helping you, you understand. Then go through the process again to figure out someone else to ask.

If they say, yes, thank them, and then ask when it would be convenient to chat – maybe at an off-site lunch or coffee after work. This needs to be a confidential conversation away from the office.

And, if you get cold feet, remember this:

Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful. – Ric Ocasek

Let people help you succeed.