While asking for help is necessary, it still might not get you what you want. It’s essential to learn exactly how to ask for help in a way that increases your likelihood for support and success.
How To Ask For Help – The DON’Ts
When men I’m working with fully realize asking for help is not a sign of weakness and it’s actually a key ingredient of success, they start to practice asking more often. Almost immediately, there are two self-defeating patterns that emerge:
1. Self-Deprecation – This involves prefacing your question or request with numerous self-deprecating statements. These might include phrases such as:
- I should know this, but can I ask you a question?
- I’m totally out of it today, can you show me…
- I’m terrible with numbers, will you remind me…
2. Apologizing – This involves apologizing in advance for your request, as if it were a burden or nuisance that must be excused.
- I’m sorry, but can you help me with this?
- I’m so sorry to bother you, but…
Both of these patterns come from an underlying belief that you in fact do NOT deserve to ask for or receive help. As you practice asking for what you need more, be aware of these tendencies and do your best to minimize or eliminate them. Doing so might make you more anxious at first, but it will more rapidly increase your ability to speak to what you want and receive it.
How To Ask For Help – The DO’s
Below are three basic strategies that’ll increase your ability to ask for help and improve your likelihood of a positive response.
1. Make It Short – When we’re not comfortable asking for help, we tend to compensate by over-explaining why we need help in the first place. It’s as if we feel embarrassed or inadequate for having to make the request and if we explained it enough we could redeem ourselves somehow. The result is a long, often convoluted statement that’s hard to clearly identify as a request. This causes others to respond with confusion or impatience, which makes our desire for support less likely to be fulfilled.
When making a request for help, keep it short and simple.
2. Make It Specific – If a request is too general, it can be hard to decipher exactly what you need. Making it specific helps the other person know exactly what you’d like them to do, by when. Instead of keeping it general or vague, think about what help you could most benefit from, and then ask for that specifically.
3. Make It Clear – A lack of clarity in our communication often comes from being conflicted inside about what we want to say. If you’re telling yourself that asking for help is embarrassing, or that the other person will most likely say no, then when you ask for help your communication will be muddled and unclear. Clarity comes from directness, which comes from knowing that have full permission to ask anyone for help. The worst they can say is “no,” and this does not mean anything negative about you.
Taking all of these into account, the goal is to make asking for help go from this:
“Um, excuse me, uh, sorry to bother you, I’m totally out of it today and I blanked on how to upload the files to the server. I remember learning how to do it, and I know that it has something to do with our web host. Is it through them or something else?”
“Hey Jim, can I ask you a quick question? Do you know how to upload files to the server? Do you have 5 minutes to show me exactly how?”
How To Ask For Help – The Final Step
The final step of asking for help is to let yourself actually receive the help you’re getting!
We’re so uncomfortable with the whole situation and are too wrapped up in self-criticism or anxiety to appreciate the gift the other person is giving us. When Jim is helping you figure out the files, pay attention and then thank him! When you tell your partner you’re struggling and she stops and listens to you, let yourself fully share and receive the support.
The biggest obstacle to receiving is the underlying belief that we don’t deserve whatever it is we’re getting.
You must re-condition yourself to be able to receive the support you need in life. The most productive, successful, and socially confident people are all masters of the art of giving and receiving.
You can start developing this skill by regularly reminding yourself:
- I deserve to be loved.
- The people in my life want to help me succeed.
- People enjoy offering help.
- I regularly receive the gifts people have to offer me.
As with any component of social confidence, asking for help is a practice. There is no quick fix. The first few times you do it, it might feel downright uncomfortable. You may notice over-explaining, self-deprecation, and apologizing all combined into one request!
That’s okay – the more aware of it you are the better.
This will allow you to start shifting the pattern, which will increase your belief in your ability to reach out for support. As you do this, you’ll find the process becomes easier and easier and you’ll start to enjoy the benefits of being able to ask for what you need.