No time? Listen to it instead
No one’s an island, and everyone needs help now and then. I’m no different. If done correctly, asking for help is a great way to preserve relationships while getting things done. So, here’s a 101 on how to ask for help correctly and in fact, get it.
Ask Before You Ask
If this were a real course, this part would be the pre-requisite. Most people send a barrage of texts. Sometimes, they call you and immediately start with the problem. That’s the worst way to ask for help, especially if you aim to get it.
Here’s what you should do instead. Ask “Can you help me out with something?” and if they can, they will ask you what it’s about. Most people don’t turn down a request at the offset.
You can also try to make it more specific but try to keep the sentence in one or two lines. You don’t have to explain what you need help with, just what it pertains to.
For example, if I need help with some feedback on an article, I’ll ask, “Can you help me out with this article I’m writing?”. If they reply yes, I’ll talk to them about it and explain what the problem is all about.
Also, if you can, try introducing the urgency to the request from the get-go. Dropping a “Can you help me out with something? It’s not urgent, but I’d appreciate it if you could” text will almost definitely net you a reply.
Lastly, be patient. Let people get back to you before you ping them again unless it is urgent, and the world will be destroyed if they didn’t assist you. To avoid panic, you should almost always reach out to multiple people.
Don’t forget to let someone know you got it done if you have, though, and thank them anyway.
Expect No For An Answer
This builds up directly from the point where you ask multiple people. The thing is, most people don’t turn down a favour but often, timelines don’t align, or they are too busy themselves or don’t want to help you out. In that case, you should bolster yourself for a no, and that’s okay. It’s usually never about you and almost always about their own life which prevents them from assisting you.
There’s a word called “sonder” that has gained social media popularity over the decade. It’s from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Sonder means that each person you pass by or remotely know has a life as vivid and complex as your own, which is something we often never realise.
So, keeping sonder in mind, know that if you’re going through a crisis of epic proportions, then almost everyone else is too.
Don’t Dictate The Terms Of Being Helped
If you need assistance, and if a person agrees, they’ll help you in their own, unique way and style. They may have a different way to approach the problem and unless it is impossible for you to try that or do it, listen intently and don’t interrupt them. You asked for help, let them do it.
Remember: you can choose to ask for help, but not how you are helped.
If you do need someone to follow a particular set of constraints, make sure you’re as specific as you can be. Also, set a boundary for what limit of help you’re expecting. If you only need ideas, make it clear. If you need someone to assist you with the process, make it clear.
Clarity will help people help you better.
Show That You Need Help
Before people want to help you or you know, give time to something that is not relevant or important to their day or life, they should be shown that you need it.
There are two ways you can show that you need their assistance.
Try It Out Yourself
The first is by trying something first. Everyone hates someone who delegates tasks and disguises them as help.
If you need help with an essay, do some research and tell the person about it. If you’re taking advice from a superior at work, make sure you’ve covered all the obvious ideas before you ask them for their time.
This shows initiative and inclines other people to help you because it shows your credibility. A bonus is that when you do try something, you tend to figure it out sometimes, and then the idea of asking for help is out the window.
Some things are as easy as giving them a shot.
Phrase It Correctly
The second is to admit that you’re bad at something or that you are inadequate at it. When we ask for help, we often add fluff words such as “I’m usually not as bad at this, but it seems I’ve hit a dead-end”.
We also add things that somehow reflect superiority or stature for no reason but to fuel our egos which are perplexed that we need someone else. We go about doing that with statements like, “Since I’ll be the highlight of that big meeting, I need my presentation to look great.”
You can quite clearly see what I’m pointing at. It helps to phrase the request honestly.
“I’m bad at presentations, man. I did put together the material that I think I’ll need to cover in it. I was hoping you could help me with the design of it since I’ve always admired how detailed and amazing yours are.”
Something like that is more likely to get you help on that especially important presentation.
One Last Thing
So, those are things I’ve learned over the years. These have loosened up my idea of asking for help. My issue mainly stemmed from the fact that I usually did not get help even when I asked for it. In hindsight, it was because of the phrasing or the time or the lack of initiative on my end.
There’s also one last thing that I want to touch upon before we close this article: we are hardwired to help other people. That’s more or less how most people function. So, when you ask for help, you will most likely get it, but it is all about asking for it correctly. The point is, you will almost always get help. People rarely turn other people down if asked nicely.
It’s an art and takes practice to ask for help correctly but some places to start are to ask people their availability and intention before you ask them for help, to expect no for an answer, not to dictate the how of you being helped, and to show initiative by trying things before you approach someone. Remember, most people rarely turn other people down if asked nicely.
If you liked this post, you’ll like the newsletter which also reminds you of the previous week’s post. Also, if you’re absolutely inclined, consider buying me a coffee from that button down there to help support this website. Most important of all, please take care of yourself and those around you. These are trying times and I wish you all the health in the world.