Asking for help can be a secret weapon to succeeding in whatever it is you are trying to achieve. But you’re probably not surprised by this. Deep down you know that asking for help will provide the answers you need to move you forwards. But you don’t ask for help.
Why do we not ask for help, when most problems we have in front of us have been experienced before and resolved, multiple times?
The great Steve Jobs was a strong advocate of not being afraid to ask for help:
It’s strange because most people I know are happy to help others. It’s in their DNA. They don’t roll their eyes or make excuses. If they feel they can help with something they will. And I’m sure that you are much like me, most of the people you know are helpful. So, why do we find it so hard to ask for help?
Here are a few of the top reasons people don’t ask for help:
- Asking for help is a weakness. You have a deep rooted belief that asking for help shows that you are weak. You should be strong and independent enough to deal with everything yourself. What kind of people ask for help? Weak people.
- Being a burden on others. You have people around you that you could and should ask but you don’t want to burden them with your problems. They have enough to deal with and could do without you putting on them with your issues.
- You don’t want to change. Asking for help may lead to having to change something. And this is probably true. If you’re stuck and need help change is going to be inevitable. But you would rather stay stuck than change. Change is the unknown and will be uncomfortable. Better the devil you know, right?
- Being judged by others. Admitting that you can’t do something may lead to a few raised eyebrows. What would they think of you? Someone in your position should have this knowledge. What kind of person doesn’t know how to do their job? If people find out you don’t know, they will tell everyone you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Previous bad experience. You’ve asked for help before and it didn’t end well. In fact. it just made things worse. Best just ploughing through on your own. Asking for help will just lead to disappointment again.
- Fear of rejection. What if you asked for help and they said no or made up some random excuse? How awkward would that be? You would be left feeling unwanted and unloved and it would harm your relationship with the person.
- Nobody to ask. You genuinely don’t have anyone you can turn to, to ask for help with the issue you have. You don’t have anyone in your network of contacts that can help you to resolve your problem.
- Loss of control. Asking for help would mean someone else getting involved and they may take you down a road that is uncomfortable, and lead to you feeling out of control. They may have ideas that are good but not the ones that you want. You would rather stay in control than open up a can of worms.
- Already know everything. Or maybe you’re just really lucky and you’ve managed to learn everything, and you don’t need any help, ever. You’ve had such a vast amount of experience that you know everything there is to know. Well done you!
Like most fears, our thoughts and feelings related to them are irrational. But they can also be worked through and conquered. For me personally, whenever I have asked for help, it has led to a step change in progress. I can recall the memorable occasions I’ve done it. But it doesn’t make it any easier. Asking for help is still something that needs managing.
How can we improve our capacity to ask for help more often?
- Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis. Ideally you want to be on the front foot when you do ask for help. Tackle problems or challenges before they start to escalate. Or even better, ask for help before something becomes a problem. So, the first thing is timing. Ask for the support you need as early as possible.
- Be self aware. Know which of the reasons for not asking for help (from the list above) most resonate with you. Appreciate that this is normal. Nobody is perfect and we all have different aspects of the above we are trying to manage. Ask people around you how they find asking for help. You will soon learn that not many people find it easy.
- Have a good network around you. Asking others for help is much easier when you have people around you that can support you when you need them. If you don’t have a good network of people around you, find some.
- Be ready to receive help and act. Be honest with yourself and only ask for help if you intend on doing something with the support you receive. It’s not fair to the other person if they provide you with their time if all you’re going to do is waste it. They will also be less likely to support you again in future.
- Just do it. Whenever anyone uses these words my ears always prick up, “I’m not sure whether you have the time at the moment but I wondered whether you could help me with something?” Whenever anyone says anything remotely like this, they instantly get my full attention. I’m half saying yes and I don’t even know what it is yet. And I think most people are like me, so just ask. Be polite and respectful in your words and see what happens.
- Try it for a month. Don’t make asking for help a one off activity for the one big problem that you struggling with at the moment. Do this for a full month for all the things that you could use a sounding board for. See how much progress you make in a month.
I hope these words help you on your journey, provide a little insight and inspire you to ask others for help. I love helping people, so for me, you would be doing me a favour. The more people who ask me for help, the more fulfilled I feel.
“Ask for help. Not because you are weak. But because you want to remain strong.” Les Brown
This article was written by the Founder & Managing Director of the Manufacturers Alliance, Gary Sheader. Gary is keen to really push the boundaries in the manufacturing sector and ensure the sector thrives throughout the 21st century. He sees great leadership as key to this and loves to help people grow to become the best leader they can be.