November 10, 2010

Asking for Help - So Much Tougher Than Giving It.

At one time or another all of us need some type of help. We may be unsure about a financial decision. Something about our important relationship seems a bit off. A relative has a health problem we don't know enough about. The point is, none of us comes with a complete set of knowledge on every subject. So, we ask friends, experts in the field, even strangers on the Internet for some feedback.

Even knowing we could use some assistance doesn't mean it is easy for us. We love to give advice, we're not as anxious to receive it. I certainly needed help at several times in my life, but was slow to ask. In looking back I have come up with a list of some of the reasons. So you don't repeat my silliness here are some thoughts on why you shouldn't hesitate to seek and accept help when you need it (me, pay attention!). 

Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. From time to time every one of us needs the advice or opinion of others. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of strength. You recognize a need and take an assertive step fill it. A true leader knows his strengths and weaknesses and takes steps to shore up the areas that need reinforcement.

Asking for help allows you to tap into a large pool of knowledge. There are people who know a whole lot about something you don't. To seek out that advice when you could benefit from it is a smart thing to do. After all, if you are asking for help shouldn't you check the best source available? If you look closely you will notice that the most successful people surround themselves with other people stronger than they are in other areas.

 Most people love to be asked for their help. Unless you are asking a complete stranger, someone you approach to give you a helping hand will be quite willing to do so. If that person is qualified to advise you both of you will benefit. Don't worry about others judging you because you asked for their help. They are likely to think quite highly of you for turning to them for advice!

Don't assume the person you need help from isn't willing to give it. Most of us are leery of imposing on a friend or someone who has experience solving your particular problem. We may rationalize they are probably much too busy to spend time with our issue. If that's your thought, re-read the section above.

Accept help or advice graciously. If you ask for help, it is not a good course of action to tell that person why his or her suggestions won't work. Remember, you asked them. Accept what they have to say and decide later if the answer will work for you. Even if a friend, co-worker, or spouse offers unsolicited advice, accept the offer to help with a smile. That person may have noticed something you didn't or has fresh insight. Ultimately, you decide whether to action on the suggested fix.

Ask for input before you are overwhelmed, frustrated and angry. You won't be at your receptive best if whatever is bothering you has reached a critical stage. You will be looking for a quick fix that may do nothing to solve the underlying issue. You won't have the patience to explain the situation fully so the other person can give you good advice. Ask for help as soon as you are aware you need it. 

Finally, say thank you. People like to help other people. They also like to be acknowledged for that assistance. Someone went out of their way, probably invested some time in the problem, and gave you their best advice. Thank them, even if you don't plan on using the suggestions.

Many of us do everything we can to avoid admitting we could use assistance. We will knowingly make the situation worse before asking for help. I am living proof. At one point or another I have ignored every single item listed above. I think I'm a bit smarter in my old age. I realize that asking for help is not an indication I'm weak. I hope this post will help you to avoid my mistakes.

Then I will have been helpful.

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  1. I tend to try and work my way through a tough situation rather than seek help. On reflection it seems that, for a number of practical and spiritual reasons, flying solo is often not the best way to go. I notice that I'm selective in who I seek out for help. I need a high degree of confidence in the person helping me in order for me to buy in. That typically means they have a strong track record of success in the subject area.

  2. Evening J,

    Your point about needing a high degree of confidence in the person giving you advice is an important one. I'm afraid too often people can get themselves in trouble by assuming a web site on the Internet, for example, is a reliable source of input. Just because the site is well-designed and seems to look professional doesn't mean the person running it is qualified to pass out help.

    Likewise, just because something is in the newspaper or on TV doesn't necessarily make it true. Selectivity is critical when seeking help or advice.

  3. Hi there Bob,

    I have a hard time asking for help so I really appreciate the sage advice you have given here. As we age, there will be more opportunities to ask for help and it's helpful to learn to do so gracefully.

  4. I write about the importance of asking for help, but I have a problem living up to my words. Asking for help was a sign of male weakness when I was growing up (think about men and getting lost while driving).

    I am much more likely to recognize the need now which is a good thing. At some point as I age I will need help due to physical or mental limitations. It it best to train myself now to realize the importance of asking for and receiving help.

  5. Point well taken in regards to asking help before things get out of control. If you wait too long and become increasingly frustrated with your situation, what could have been an easy fix addressed immediately may become more of a challenge to solve. There are a lot of people who can help us if we only ask them.

  6. We have this belief that if given enough time we can fix whatever is wrong. Not necessarily true. We might make it worse!

    Thanks, Dave. Just back from a few hours in the park, watching the ducks and inspiring another post idea!

  7. One thing I might add is that if possible, be specific in your request for help.

  8. Good point, Steve. Being as specific as possible helps eliminate interpretation and communication problems.


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