The Skill of Asking for Help

Credit: Baltimore Centerstage

How is it that someone who was raised to delight in helping others can’t seem to ask others for help?  Asking for help when you need it is an essential and valuable skill.  Skill, you ask?  I call it a skill because for many of us asking for help is really difficult.  It may take some time and practice to learn how to do this well.  After thirty plus years of adulthood I am finally making significant progress/inroads, but it’s a daily struggle.

Why do we hesitate to ask for help?  Do we see asking for help as a sign of weakness?  Are we indicating we can’t or don’t know how to do something if we ask for help?  Is your inner perfectionist taking over?  Or do you need to do it alone to prove something to yourself?  For many, asking for help is a last resort.  We believe no one else can do it quite as well, or without significant supervision which takes more time than it is worth.  But busy is the new normal, and in our quest to have it all, finding time for ourselves becomes increasingly difficult.  Receiving help may actually earn you some much needed time for yourself.

The advantages of asking for help:  As a teacher I have found that the students who seek out or accept help are ones that I have built the strongest bonds with.  Admitting you need help or working with someone who needs your help is a wonderful way to build a relationship.  Think about how you feel when someone lets you help.  All the people I have spoken with about this unanimously say that they feel more needed and useful when they are allowed to help.  Take advantage of other’s expertise. For my daughter’s wedding a friend who is an interior decorator wanted to design the tables.  I said yes, and we were both happy.  She did a better job, with less effort than I ever could, and I actually got to relax on my daughter’s wedding day.

Know who to ask:  Learn who you can rely on for help.  Try to tap into people’s strengths and ask the appropriate people for help.  Then back off and let them do their thing.  Don’t micromanage.

Start Small:  The next time someone asks if you need help, say yes.  If you are in your home, ask them to set the table.  If you need it done a particular way, do one place setting so they can see how it should be done.  Let them refill the drinks or put out the food, or let them stack the dishwasher.  For years I wouldn’t let even my closest friend do this.  I used to believe that my way was best, but guess what?  No matter who stacks it and in what configuration, the dishes still get clean.  At work, when I delegate (just another word for asking for help), at times things go so well I even enjoy passing tasks on to others.  Not to mention the time it saves me.

On the flipside, this skill shouldn’t be abused.  We all know someone that asks you for help with everything because they don’t want to do anything on their own.  That’s a story for another time…

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