How to ask for helpBoss: “How’s that 55 page thesis on Chinese economic policy coming on, Nat?”

You: “Oh, splendidly, thanks. It’s a real page turner.”

Sound familiar? Bet it does. Perhaps not the Chinese economic policy bit, but definitely lying through your teeth when you’re so far out of your depth the Jaws soundtrack is playing on loop in your head.

In our BE THE BEST AT ALL TIMES society asking for help can be seen as a weakness – I should be able to cope with this, otherwise I’m a failure*. We did a couple of surveys when writing our books and one of the things that people reported worrying about time and time again was of being ‘caught out’ looking stupid or not knowing something you think you should know. If you feel you’re barely keeping your head above water this fear can reach panic levels. You start thinking, “Everyone else is coping, therefore there must be something wrong with me” or “If I ask for help everyone will laugh at me/judge me for not being good enough or strong enough”.

Well, that’s balderdash, hogwash, drivel and baloney all wrapped up in one big bag of nonsense.

Maybe you have more on than usual. Maybe you’ve been asked to do something new. Maybe you’re in a totally new situation that you’ve never dealt with before. This can relate to work, family life, friends, relationships – anything – but there’s one really simple way to ease the pressure: ASK FOR HELP.

Asking for help isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength – it takes a lot of courage. Everyone is good at some things and not so good at others and no one can do everything by themselves. Floundering or being a martyr or know-it-all will only bite you in the arse. If someone criticises you, see it as an opportunity to improve. If someone does something better than you, see it as an opportunity to learn. If you fall short, know you can do better next time. If you’re embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Understanding there are things you don’t know and recognising you’re not superhuman will ease the pressure you’re putting yourself under – and it’ll improve other people’s view of you too. The people we all see as capable and trustworthy are those who admit when they don’t know something or that they need a hand – not the ones who blunder on regardless. And the best bit? People love being asked for help. It makes them feel good about themselves so it’s win-win.

To get you in the habit of requesting help ask for assistance every day next week – anything from asking for directions to asking a pal for advice on a personal matter. The more you practise asking, the more comfortable you’ll feel and you’ll see first-hand how flattered people are that you value their opinion or expertise. Remember the last person who asked you for help and how great it made you feel. Next, move onto asking about the bigger stuff. You’ll be amazed at the weight lifted from your shoulders. People will respect you for opening up and will want to help.

Don’t weigh your worth on what you don’t know or can’t do, weigh it on your willingness and capacity to learn.

*To read more about the danger of certain words, including ‘should’ click here!

3 thoughts on “HELP! How to ask for help when you’re freaking out

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. It describes the situation I am currently in at work exactly! I have been driving myself mad for weeks/months, trying to figure things out on my own, but not just because I expect myself to know things that I’ve never tried before, but my boss does too (he is externally vocalising what my inner doomsayer tells me all the time). I recently came to the conclusion that the only way out of this was to ask another colleague for help (I think my boss does view this as a sign of my weakness), but I finally had the courage to tell my boss yesterday that if I didn’t ask for help from someone, the project just wasn’t going anywhere as I have become paralysed by my own self doubt and fear of getting it wrong. If the project and its results are important to him, this is how it’s going to get done. It was actually a great relief, and the colleague I asked was only to pleased to share his knowledge, and acknowledged that I did have some pretty good ideas, which was nice to hear after all the doubts about my abilities from my head and my boss.
    I wish I’d read this post months ago and it would’ve saved so many sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, beating myself up. But then I wouldn’t have read your books to start helping me out of the low self esteem/panic loop, and then I wouldn’t know about this blog! (and you only wrote it recently anyway).

  2. Thank you so much for leaving this comment! We’re so glad asking for help made your situation better and that you received some much-needed support and praise. We can tie ourselves in knots worrying, but asking for help can make things so much more manageable and make you feel more in control. We’re thrilled you’re reading the books and hope they continue to bolster your self-esteem and stop any panic!

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