18th May 2020

The art of asking

Remember how good it feels when someone asks you for help? That warm, confident feeling because they value your opinion and experience, and think YOU are the one who’s going to make a big difference to them. Turn this on its head and think about … what if you asked for help in a professional environment?

Does it feel difficult, like you’re a bit exposed? Vulnerable, incompetent, needy, not wanting to inconvenience someone – or worse still – what if they rejected you and said sort yourself out mate. Well, with that infernal, internal dialogue you’ve just talked yourself into the ground and for no good reason. We’ve just proved to you that people LIKE to help.

In our connected economy, giving and receiving help is what social collaboration is all about.

We even find that the best resource is found outside our immediate networks – making a co-working space with a diverse group of individuals, businesses and experiences, an ideal place to source the help you need.

Asking for help often leads to us being able to do a task or overcome a problem so much more effectively and efficiently. Here are a few thoughts on boosting our ability to ask:

1. Believe in people’s generosity and give back

Plenty of research has shown that most people are willing and want to help, even strangers when asked. Most people are generous. Remember to reciprocate, give back and offer your support too. The more you give the more comfortable you’ll feel in asking for help, and you’ll likely find that the people you help will naturally reciprocate. You’re opening the opportunity to ask freely next time.

And what better way to build up your network and develop these into trusted working relationships?

2. Ask because you want to learn

There are two different ways in which people ask for help: one in which you want to learn how to do something for yourself, and the other in which you want the problem solved and for someone to make it go away.

Focusing on learning how to resolve a problem, with someone taking you through the process, will help to develop stronger working relationships. It’ll reassure your helper that you see them as more than a ‘tool’ and that you want to be more than a dependant.

3. Use SMART

Be Specific in your request, demonstrate why the need is Meaningful and important to you, outline an Action as part of the ask, be Realistic in your request, and set Timings and detail the deadlines you’re working to.

For those that fear being seen as incompetent, being more thoughtful in your request will have people believe you are more competent, not less.

4. Share what you’re trying to achieve

Sometimes we don’t know what we’re asking for, so rather than focusing on the immediate blocker and trying to figure out what to ask, share what you’re trying to achieve. Through this a resolution for what will and can help may be identified more easily.

At times, you may even find a better approach than the route you had initially thought of.

“Remember how good it feels when someone asks you for help?”

5. Be sensitive to other personalities

Pick up if you can, how people like to be asked and how they work best. Some will prefer being asked in person, some via an email or text, and some favour a quick phone call. As you develop your relationships over time this will become easier. In the first instance it’s probably best to ask and gauge it from there.

6. Build a trusted network

Even though people are willing, it can sometimes feel like there’s no one you can turn to. This can be especially true of business owners or those in c-suite, or simply because you might be the only one in your department.

Building a network outside of your immediate circle or business is a great way to access expertise. There are groups and networks for business leaders and individual disciplines. Look to these to develop a trusted group of people in which you can share problems and ask for guidance.

7. Lead by example

Do you sometimes think you need to be all-knowing? In the long run this is self-limiting. Leaders, seniors and experts also need to ask for help, just like anyone else. After all, the world around us continues to evolve and change.

Rather than feel like you need to set an all-knowing and self-sufficient example, lead by example in proactively asking for help to build a culture of collaboration. This will encourage others to do the same. Collaboration is often preached in business – simply practice what you preach.

8. Practice

Like anything, practice makes perfect. The more you ask, the more you’ll feel comfortable in doing so. In time it’ll simply be second nature.