Thursday, August 16, 2007

Learning to Ask for Help

First, let me admit that I am not big on asking for help. I think part of the reason is that I’ve always been sort of an independent spirit – I like to do things my way without anyone else telling me how to do it (which is why I’ve threatened on numerous occasions to leave the males in my family along the road somewhere the next time they try to tell me how to drive).

I think some of my other reasons are pretty common for a lot of people: asking for help may cause others to think I’m weak or incapable; I’m afraid I’ll be turned down by asking for assistance, embarrassing everyone involved; or I just think it will be easier to buckle down and do everything myself.

Then I read M. Nora Klaver’s book and had a change of heart. For the first time, I saw that asking for help doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve somehow lost. Instead, asking for help at the right time, for the right reasons and from the right people can be, as she says, a blessing.

In “Mayday! Asking for Help in Times of Need,” Klaver writes: “The act of asking for help is not only an invitation, it is a declaration, an assertion that we are deserving of assistance. When we venture to ask for what we need, we learn quickly that we are not alone and that there are resources, friends, and partners available to help. Asking for help can also re-introduce us to the beauty and inherent strength of gratitude.”

At a time when we’re all struggling to have work/life balance, Klaver says that asking for assistance may just lead us to a simpler, easier life – one that helps us achieve that balance.

Still, asking for help is not always easy, especially at work. The key, she says, it not to reach out for help as a last resort, mired in desperation. Rather, she says, asking for help should be thought of as a way to help ourselves grow and make meaningful connections with other people.

Klaver offers numerous tips and suggestions in her book about how, when and why to ask for help, but I’d like to focus on some questions you can use to get your conversation going when asking for help:

1. Would you be willing to help me with something? Is now a good time?
2. I’ve got something I’m trying to resolve, can you give me a hand?
3. I’m desperate, can you help me please? (This humorous approach should be used when you know the other person pretty well.)
4. I’m stuck and I can’t see clearly how to resolve this. Would you be willing to help me come up with a few ideas?

And, if they’re not able to help, ask:
• Can you suggest someone else who might be able to help?
• Do you know anyone who has had a similar suggestion? Do you know how they resolved it?

After I interviewed Klaver, I began to think of all the times I helped someone in need. I thought about how great I felt by doing it. In this world of chaos and stress and uncertainty, helping someone else – whether it was providing a business contact or offering someone a ride home on a hot summer day – made me feel good, more at peace.

So, the next time you need help, don’t suck it up and do it all yourself. Spread the blessings around and reach out.


Anonymous said...

I've never been one to ask for help either. I would always just "do it myself" but I'm learning that asking for help is part of the "giving and receiving" of the Universe. It does feel good to help someone else. We should allow others the good feelings from helping us!
Great post!

Anonymous said...

Found you via the Magical List of Outstanding Women Bloggers. Reading my way through the list.
Such a good idea as it introduces blogs such as yours.
Great reading.http:

Anita said...

Welcome to my blog, Anja and Karen! I hope you find it helpful. For those of you who haven't heard of it, a "W" list has been circulating the blogosphere, with women adding the names of female bloggers they like. One industrial blogger put the list into categories, so it's easier to determine what kind of blog you'd like to check out. The list is here:

Holly Schwendiman said...

Great article. I'm glad you're on the W-List so I could find you today! Your thoughts are absolutely true on so many levels. It takes a being a gracious receiver to truly be a gracious giver too. I like to think of life as one big's always going around...sometimes you're on top and sometimes you on bottom...never in the same place all the time. That's how we learn and grow. But I think when you ask for help you probably speed along the momentum. :)


Anita said...

Thanks for stopping by to check out my blog! You made some excellent points.
I often think of how we used to work the same job for decades, lived near extended families and were active in our communities. I think that made it easier to ask for help. But now we job hop, move thousands of miles from families and spend more time commuting in our cars or communing with our Blackberries than we do developing relationships with people.
As you said, we need to all realize we're part of one big wheel, and not just some lone entity out there...that being able to receive help, and ask for help, is a blessing...