How easily do you seek help in your personal and professional life?
When is it easier for you to seek help?
What makes you hesitant to ask?
In my work as a coach, I have discovered that most professionals avoid seeking help because they are afraid of being rejected or appearing incompetent or ignorant.
Busting the myth
According to research, we underestimate people’s willingness to help. We are more likely to receive the help we require if we ask for it. In fact, many people have difficulty saying “no” to requests for assistance. They go out of their way to help others simply because they are asked, even if it means sacrificing personal time to meet their obligations. This reflects the generosity of human beings. We place immense value on being helpful. Organizations also encourage this behavior by rewarding employees who go above and beyond to assist colleagues.
In my experience as a coach, employees help others because they genuinely want to help. They also aspire to be seen as collaborative. However, the thought of seeking collaboration raises concerns about appearing inept, ignorant, or incapable. New employees are shy, and senior employees believe that they should know and be able to do everything.
However, no one person can know and do everything. Expecting this from yourself or your team is a surefire way to become overwhelmed and experience feelings of isolation in the face of work challenges. Additionally, if you do not seek help when you need it, you –
- are not prioritizing the interest of your clients/stakeholders
- maybe operating in a thought vacuum
- reduce your capacity
- take longer to learn/ find the resources you require
- forego the opportunity to form meaningful relationships.
What can you do?
Leaders can normalize and position seeking help as a strength, by –
- sharing their experiences with seeking assistance in order to provide better/faster results
- including a ‘help needed’ section in all status update meetings
- sharing the softer benefits, such as the rich connections and networks formed, as a result of seeking and providing assistance.
At an individual level, professionals will do well by learning to ask for what they need. To get started, they can rate their stress on a scale of 1 to 5, and if it is higher than 3, investigate what kind of help might bring it down and what they need to take the leap of faith and reach out for help. Like any new habit, seeking help will become easier with repetition.
Tips to ensure that you get the help you need
Be cautious that when you seek help, you have done enough research to ensure that you need help. Share the context of what you are looking for and why, as well as your specific request while seeking assistance. Do not ask for help with information that you can easily find on your own. Last but not least, be the person who supports others in their time of need. Even if you have never helped the person you are seeking help from, you are more likely to receive it if you have a reputation for being helpful.
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