The art of asking for help

I was stuck. I couldn’t figure out what the client’s true problem was, and thus, what steps to take to address it. I kept getting caught up in research results — information, data, summaries of studies, both quantitative and qualitative, that had been recently conducted. None of it felt right or sufficient to me, but I wasn’t sure what to do. I needed help — another set of eyes — even though I was convinced that, given my experience, I should be able to uncover the real problem on my own.

After swallowing my pride, I called upon a former colleague whose unconventional way of thinking, I’d always admired. He listened. Then, he asked some questions I hadn’t even thought of, and within an hour or two my view of “what was really going on” had shifted, significantly. It was positively liberating. I felt a profound sense of relief and a renewed sense of commitment...


What does it mean if I ask you for help? Does it mean that I’m I basically incapable of solving my own problems? Am I afraid to try? Am I just lazy? Do I fear being perceived as weak or lost? Or, will I feel exposed and vulnerable?

It’s not always easy asking for help. But we all need it, now and again. It’s simply part of being human; perfectly imperfect. Unfortunately, there’s no manual that describes the best ways to ask for help. 

Recently, I attended an author’s retreat. As writers. all of us are veteran help-askers. We seek help in shaping and editing our stories, devising compelling titles, finding the right publisher for our works. One of our discussions was devoted to how to ask for help, not just as authors, but as individuals striving to live fulfilling and meaningful lives. Once we got going, the ideas flowed. What surfaced was the realization that asking for help is its own art form. It requires imagination and a bit of creativity to know how to ask for help. While there’s no one way, there are different forms of help we can turn to when the time is right.

Here’s the list we came up with and a quick description of each idea:

Ask me questions – I don’t know it all. Maybe a few good questions will get me going.

Show me how – Let me watch you do it.

Offer expert advice – You know more than I do about my challenge. Give me guidance.

Think creatively with me – Get out of the box with me. Let’s brainstorm.

Give me feedback – Tell me what you think about my predicament in constructive terms.

Be my sounding board – Just listen for a while. Then tell me what you heard.

Provide moral support – I’m frustrated and discouraged. Give me a boost. 

Lend a hand – I’m not sure I can do this alone. Work with me.

Loan me something I can use – What tools do you have I can apply to “fix” this?

Protect and care for me – I’m feeling vulnerable. Stay with me while I work this out.

Help me make sense of things – I’m confused. How can I put things into perspective?

Motivate me – I’m waffling. Don’t let that happen. Spur me on. 

Who do you know who could use your help and what are the best ways you can give it?  One more thing…what sort of help would help you? 

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