What’s up with asking for help?
If you’re anything like me, and most of humanity, you think you’re pretty good about asking for help, but in reality, when it’s crunch time, what you really think is:
I should be able to figure this out. If I get stuck, then I’ll ask for help.
I have lived most of my life this way. Independence. Figure things out. Actually getting shit done. These are important values of mine. And it feels so good.
Accomplishment delivers the dopamine. That rush of warmth you get when you nail it. Bliss and satisfaction.
And I’m actively trying to stimulate independence in my teen. It’s important to be able to take care of yourself, to learn life skills.
At the same time, it’s important to ask for help. So many of my clients struggle with asking for help. So we work on it. I’ve gotten really good at asking for help, and gotten really good at helping others navigate their way to asking for help as leadership skill Nr.1
There are different levels of asking for help.
Entry level asking: Ask for help when you need it.
You’ve got a challenge and you don’t know what to do.
So you seek advice from a friend or mentor.
You realise that yo need to learn a skill so you enrol in a course or hire an expert to teach you.
10x level asking: Ask for help even if you think you don’t need it.
This is where you change the game. This is where you level up. This is where you start to create big impact.
How does it work?
- You don’t need help
- You ask for help anyway
- Amazing things happen: connection, collaboration, even better outcomes, fun and laughter, empowering others, delegating. So many good things.
Now I have to confess, when my teen does this, it drives. me. nuts. This automated response kicks in:
“You should do this yourself. You’ve got to learn how to do it for yourself”.
I’ve been puzzling about this contradiction in myself. I’m encouraging my clients to ask for help more often, especially when they don’t need it. And I’m feeling affronted when my teen does this.
It’s not just a subtle thing, it’s visceral. It sometimes actually offends my sensibilities.
What’s that all about?
This is what my puzzling and reflection has revealed to me:
There is a deep seated belief that we need to figure it out for ourselves.
This message is all around us. Be tough. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The loner entrepreneur who makes it “all on their own” – that’s who you need to emulate.
And there is also this message:
Well, if you’re stuck, if you can’t make it on your own, then ok, get some help. But you know, keep going til you start drowning, then refuse the first few offers of help because societal expectations, then when you’re almost dead, ok then you can accept the help.
It’s like asking for help is conditional. There is criteria that you have to meet before you can ask for help.
And clearly I have internalised these beliefs. Have you done that too? Bad news, you have probably internalised this too.
I think these beliefs play a big part in many of the burnouts that you see around you. It played a big part for me.
A personal insight.
Did you know that when my teen was a preemie baby and was finally discharged from hospital, she was getting 24-hour care from trained professionals who were working in 8-hour shifts? But this is the actual shocking bit. Did you know when they said “you can take her home now, and this is all the care she needs” (huge long list) I just said “OK”?
Seriously, I didn’t even ask for help. It didn’t occur to me AT ALL.
I thought: I’m the mum. It’s my job to look after her. Feed her? Sure. Provide intensive medical care 24 hours a day? Sure.
Isn’t that insane?
But while I still have that knee jerk, automated response about “I can do it”, I know deep in my bones that asking for help as my go to action is life changing.
It really is the new habit that can level up your impact.
What does this 10x level of asking look like?
When you’re about to do something, turn to your colleague, team, partner, and say:
Can you help me with this?
Let’s work on this together.
Can I pick your brain?
Simple but life-changing.
Try it out and see what happens.
This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward.