Successful people ask for help and so should you! Nobody is a self-made man. Every successful person you know got help in some way or another. They know their strengths and weaknesses. The best way to work around ones weaknesses is by asking for help. Then, the problem gets solved faster, cheaper and better! Still, there is a general aversion to ask for help. Usually it is the fear of rejection or the fear of crossing a line by asking for too much. Asking the right way will increase the chances to get help and decrease the fear.
Whatever way you ask, there is always the possibility that your request for help gets refused. Don’t take it personally! People want to help! But, sometimes they can’t for good reasons.
A no is not a no forever. Often people find time and ways to help you after all. Sometimes you have to ask a second time.
Not asking is an immediate NO! Not asking is giving up!
“You’ve got to ask! Asking is, in my opinion, the world’s most powerful – and neglected – secret to success and happiness.” – Percy Ross
The right preparation will increase the chances to get help. First you need to understand why you need help. Can’t you do it yourself? Can somebody else do it better? Do you understand the problem? Afterwards you can plan your help request. You should be as specific as possible. It is best, if you can plan your request the SMART way. The next step is to choose the right person. The request should match the persons strengths, flexibility and comfort level.
Earn the right to ask. Follow the most important networking rule and people will ask you how they can help you!
Don’t ask when it is too late! Asking early for help makes it easier for the other person. They can find time in their schedule and have enough of it. It also takes away pressure.
Don’t be vague! Be as specific as possible. Otherwise, people will either help you the wrong way or say no immediately.
Don’t ask people to jump through hoops for you! Make it as easy and convenient for them as possible.
How to ask for help
To illustrate the methods or techniques take a look at Bob. Let’s assume Bob works in a big law firm and needs to print out a form. Unfortunately, he has some technical difficulties with the printer. He knows that Lisa can print and is going to ask for her help.
The Direct Ask
This is what people understand under asking for help. Plain and simple asking the person for help. The best way is to start with “I need your help …” or “Can I ask you for a favor”.
Bob: “Lisa, I need your help! Can you please print out document XY for me?”
The Opt-Out Ask
The weird thing about the opt-out ask is that you give the other person an excuse to say no. That makes it easy for the other person to say no but in a way that you don’t lose your face. It also lessens the pressure on both sides.
Bob: “Lisa, I need your help! If you have time, could you please print out document XY for me?”
The Alternative Ask
With the alternative ask you give two choices. You ask for A and/or B. Your opposite can decide how to help. Psychological, a person will more likely say yes to a second favor after denying the first one.
Bob: “Lisa, I need your help. Could you please write an offer for client X?”
Lisa: “Sorry Bob … I can’t …”
Bob: “OK, could you at least print a document for me?
Lisa: “Yes …”
The Shrinking Ask
The brother of the alternative ask. In this case B is smaller than A. We always compare things. A BMW is compared to Lamborghini an affordable car. A normal size favor seems small compared to a big one. Therefore, we underestimate it.
Bob: “Lisa, I need your help. Could you please fix the printing on my computer or print a document for me?”
The Convenient Ask
With the convenient ask you make it as convenient as possible for the other person to help you.
Bob: “Lisa, I need your help. Could you please print out a document for me. I already sent it to your E-mail. You just need to open it and press on print.”
The Mutual Benefit
Find a way how the person you ask benefits by helping you. Ask: What is in for him or her? The answer will make it easy to ask for help. When you ask, focus first on the benefits and tell the person what he/she needs to do to obtain the benefits.
Bob: “Lisa, I know how much you like coffee and that the coffee brewer is broken. To get it fixed I need to fill out a form. I can’t print it. Could you please print …”
“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” – Albert Schweitzer
The Hidden Ask
Tell your story. Start a conversation with the person you need help from. Steer the conversation towards your goal or problem. Explain what and why you want to accomplish it. When you are sure that your opposite understands where you want to go, mention what help you need. If the person is willing to help and not a complete idiot, he or she will offer you help.
Bob: “ … anyways. The only problem is I can’t print the document. I need to find a way, to print it!”
I tried all the described techniques. They all work. Knowing how will make it easier to ask. Still, you have to overcome the aversion. Never forget:
Not asking is an immediate NO!
Have you tried the techniques? If so, please tell us about your experience. Do you know another technique? Share your knowledge in the comments section!