I was reminded this morning that no matter how hard we try, inevitably at some point we all need to ask for help. As I was out with my 8 month old twins I bent down to pick something up and my back “went out.” My first thought before the searing pain set in was, “uh oh this is a game changer.” My mind quickly shifted to thoughts of how to get the twins in an out of the car and creative strategies to lift them up and down while not screaming in pain or doing further damage to my back. Ultimately, I knew this was one of those times I was going to have to ask for help. And I did.
It also, got me thinking about how most people are happy to help but dread asking for it. Often time’s people think that they have to go to extraordinary lengths to ask for help. For instance, rehearsing what you are going to say over and over again or writing a very long email. It’s as if we assume no one will want to help us. However, much of the time it’s counter-intuitive to the reality of the situation. Most people feel honored and not burdened when someone asks them for help.
Also, when you ask someone for help it’s best to keep it simple short and to the point. In that vein, as I lay in my bed on an ice pack, I offer 5 ways to make asking for help easier.
1. Finish this sentence: “I was wondering if you could help me ____________ (fill in the blank)” I know this is overly simple but in this case simple is very effective. Most people don’t like it when you beat around the bush. They want you to get to the point ASAP!
2. Send your request through a text or email. I understand it’s not the most personal way to ask for help but it will keep your request brief.
3. Barter: Is there something you can offer in return for someone helping you? I find especially now in this difficult economy that bartering is becoming much more common place. For instance, someone might trade a few hours of childcare for a bag of lemons from another’s backyard lemon tree.
4. Embrace the universality of the situation: At some point everyone needs help. The person you are asking to help you has also needed to ask for help. Eventually, someone will come to you and ask for help.
5. Just do it already! Stop thinking about it, take a deep breath and ask. It’s not the asking that generates anxiety it’s the waiting and ruminating.