Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Are You Capable of Asking for the One Thing You Need the Most to be Successful?

I'm going to ask you a very tough question: When was the last time you asked for help?

I'm not talking about a desperate cry for aid when you're, say, about to drop a cardboard tray of Starbucks, or when you ask your friend to hold the door while you bring in the groceries.

No, I'm talking about asking for help at work. When was the last time you said: "I can't get all this done by myself -- can you help?"

This is often a very difficult request for many people. Part of the reason is because we often think it's just easier if we do it ourselves, and part is because we fear we'll be seen as incompetent if we can't handle everything that comes our way. At the same time, we have that niggling feeling that letting anyone else into our "territory" will allow them to get a leg up on us, diminishing our capabilities or hurting our success in some way.

I'll admit it: I'm one of those people. I think it will just be faster and easier to do it myself and I can be very protective of my turf. But I learned a valuable lesson recently when I had surgery on my arm and faced months of rehabilitation. I had to ask for help -- and there were so many people willing to give it. Not because I was asking -- but because they were giving back. Of course they were willing to lend a hand (literally and figuratively), they said, because I had done it many times for them.

Huh. I didn't exaclty remember all those times, but they sure did. And while it was difficult at first to ask for that help, the interactions were so positive that I think I've permanently changed my viewpoint. I've become closer to friends and family, I've formed new bonds with colleagues who were willing to step in and help, and developed new friendships from those who were sympathetic to my plight and offered encouragement and ideas for getting work done.

While I dreaded the months of trying to figure out how to get work done one-armed, instead I found it was a really enriching experience. People were funny and kind and never once tried to take my job. My bosses and clients were understanding and supportive and as the days and weeks went by, I realized that the fear I had of asking for help had slipped away.

In it's place was a real sense of gratitude for the relationships that had grown and for the new ones that had developed. I realized that I was as worthy as anyone else of receiving help, and a simple "thank you" was all that was needed from me.

Since I'm getting back up to speed, I don't need as much help (hardly any, in fact), but I try to remind myself every day of the positive experience that can arise by simply asking for help.

So, what's holding you back?

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Andres said...

Nicely said! Asking for help, like offering it, is teamowrk 101.

Anita said...

Right. I had to totally change my thinking and look at asking for help as a sign of strength...not weakness.
Thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

You've hit the nail right on the head, asking for help is hard to do! I think that asking for help might be easier in an uncompetitive work environment, though. I know some people who, if they asked for help, would soon find themselves out of a job!

Anita said...

That's sad, but probably true. Think of how much better off we'd all be if we could not only ask for help, but be allowed to make mistakes (within reason), without fearing we'd have our heads on the chopping block.

Anonymous said...

Ah... Finally... A point close to my heart. Even from a non-workplace point of view, people get it into their heads early that asking for help is a sign of weakness.

A friend of mine, seriously in debt by the middle of every month, and coughing blood because of excessive smoking once called me a loser for reading self-help books.

Anita said...

What a sad commentary that is on our society...that your friend is suffering and still doesn't see the value of asking for help. I am a pretty independent spirit, but even I have learned that receiving help is often a great gift -- not a sign of weakness.
Thanks for posting.