Why is it so hard to ask for help?
“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
― Otto von Bismarck
One thing I advocate on The Chrissy B Show is the importance of asking for help. Yet, we still seem to find it so difficult.
Of course there are a number of psychological barriers - made worse when suffering from depression or anxiety which contribute to reluctance to reach out, but most people worry about:
- bothering others
- not taking their advice (and then causing an issue in the relationship)
-not wanting to look weak or incapable (sometimes exacerbated by our upbringing or past experiences)
- wanting to be "the strong one" - as if asking for help damages the identity that has been created
- realising they cannot do it alone (and needing to work through feelings which are stirred up)
- embarassment at needing help at all
However, sometimes asking for help - especially before things go awry - is better than needing it from a state of panic (only to be told "Why didn't you say something?"...thus starting the cycle again) - and it can build a very positive relationship that benefits you and the person helping.
Not only that, but one is not expected to be the expert on every area - which is why it's even better to have friends or colleagues you can call upon to learn from their experience (and their mistakes!) once in a while.
Whomsoever you are approaching, two things that makes asking for help easier are:
1. Knowing what to ask
2. Knowing who to ask (and when)
(...and the secret third thing - 3. It's OK not to know everything!)
KNOWING WHAT TO ASK
When the mere act of saying "I'm a bit stuck here" is already a mountain to climb, it seems so much harder to add the burden of knowing what to ask as well. (This is one of the reasons in favour of asking for help early anyway). However, that burden, in some ways is yours to shoulder. You are asking for the benefit of someone else's time and experience - and if you are already concerned that you don't "want to bother" - it's much easier for that person to help you if you - and they - are aware of what you are looking for.
I always tell my students that I will always happily look over their assignments - but to come prepared with specific questions to ask me...this also demonstrates that they have looked over and taken owenership of their work as well.
So - if you are asking for help:
- Try to be specific, at least with the area you want advice on
- Have some questions ready for that time you ask - and sometimes, it can be polite to ask first if they have time to help you.
(Psychologically, most of us like being asked for help - so it seems quite strange that people don't want to do it.)
KNOWING WHO TO ASK
While we may be comfortable asking those closest to us for help, they may not be the best people as they may not have the required expertise, and sometimes their relationship with you may bias their responses. Why do we go to doctors or lawyers or customer services - generally because they have the specific expertise that we are needing for our issue. Therefore, the first people to approach will be those who have offered you help in that area - this generally happens when they have experience they are willing to share - and wow, that's a real advantage! The next may be friends and family - but often with regards to whether they may know someone who can help - especially if you know they have no expertise in the area. Experience is important. Sometimes you don't need motivation and support - you just need answers!!!
...and be aware that in some cases you may still be expected to give consideration in return - after all they are the expert...even if it's "mates rates" - or if they are offering you their resource for free, don't keep badgering - and keep the door open for giving them your help in return. (It's also OK if you don't take the advice - just don't keep asking the same people in order to reject them!!)
Asking for help can be a very positive connection for both parties - and can lead to greater opportunities and knowledge sharing in future.
So get asking.