Get a helping hand image for 3D-VA Asking for help blog

Do you think asking for help is a sign of weakness? It might surprise you that it can actually be a strength.

It’s no great surprise that we consider solving challenges on our own, being independent and being self-sufficient, as strengths. But what about when we are stuck? Why does asking for help feel like giving up?

If you are seen as an expert in your chosen field, it can feel daunting to admit that you don’t know something. Will it impact your credibility? Will people lose trust in you? But no matter how much experience you have, you will find yourself facing new challenges and situations which turn you back into a learner again, and if you are not learning you are not growing. But is that right? Surely, we should always strive to be learning. “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” ―John Wooden

What’s the problem?

Can’t find a slick solution to a problem? Talking to others can give you a fresh perspective. Maybe you need help for when you are feeling overwhelmed, someone to listen or just to share the workload.

Alison Wood Brooks and Francesca Gino, both of Harvard University, found that people think you are smarter if you ask for help, she says that “seeking advice boosts perceptions of competence and makes advisers feel affirmed. People think they’re losing control if they ask for help, but they are regaining control. We all need help sometimes.” You can listen to an interview with Alison Wood Brooks and Francesca Gino by clicking this link: Harvard Business Review ideacast.

It’s ok to say, “I don’t know”

We have all listened to politicians, who when asked a question, live on air, clearly don’t know the answer. But we never hear them admit they don’t know. Instead they waffle and try to make it sound like they know what they are talking about. Typically, this is when they look the most stupid, and we lose our respect and confidence in them.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new.” President Barack Obama, In a speech to American students at a high school in Virginia

And it might surprise you…

There is also another added benefit that comes from asking someone to help you out. It’s known as the Benjamin Franklin effect. 

Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin once wanted to win over a man who he thought didn’t like him. He asked the man to lend him a rare book and when he did, he thanked him graciously. As a result, this man became good friends with Franklin. To quote Franklin: “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”
 
Scientists decided to test this theory and found if you want someone to like you, it is more powerful to ask them to do you a favour, than it is for you to do a favour for them. The theory is that when someone does a favour for you, they rationalise that you must have been worth doing the favour for, which must mean they like you!

How can we ask for help?

Take a moment to consider who you can go to ask for help. Who do you trust? Who has the skills you don’t? Create a circle of support. Networking is a great way to do this. I go to networking sessions with the intention of finding out about other businesses. I may know someone else I can introduce them to where they can mutually benefit and hopefully others will make interesting connections for me. By changing our intentions at these events from selling to supporting they can become a valuable source of help and advice.

A lot of networking can be done online by joining groups on social media. There are several such groups for VAs that I am a member of, it’s a great place to ask questions and share knowledge. 

Coach or mentor?

Another way of asking for help is by getting a coach or a mentor. A mentor typically has experience and knowledge of the role or challenge you are facing. They can share their experience and learnings and connect you to others who may be able to help.

A coach will help by asking you questions that challenge your thinking. They won’t tell you what to do and don’t usually need to have experience in the specific task or role you want help with. It assumes you have to solution within you and you can solve the challenge yourself. 

Both are great ways to help you overcome challenges, reach new goals and keep you in a mindset that you are always learning. Check out the Coaching & Mentoring Network website for tips on how to choose the right coach or mentor https://new.coachingnetwork.org.uk/find-a-coach-mentor/the-right-coach-mentor

So next time you find yourself struggling, think – who could help me with this? You may gain more than you can imagine.

If you have 10 mins take a look at this Ted talk – Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness

Asking for Help

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