Summary: Here are some great ways to reframe your mindset if you’re struggling with asking for help in the workplace. Learn how to prioritize and think about the situation from different angles in order to find the courage needed to reach out to someone who can offer you the support you need.
Asking for help can be one of the hardest things to do. We attach a lot of social stigma when people can’t just do things themselves without “burdening” others. But the truth of the matter is that no one gets by alone. Not only are we social creatures meant to depend on one another, but we all have unique strengths and can create much better results when we work together. Unfortunately, just knowing that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to ask for help, especially if we’ve made a mistake. So here are some steps you can take to gain the courage needed to get there.
Flip The Script
Think about a friend (even better if they are also your coworker). Imagine it was them in this situation instead of yourself. Chances are, you wouldn’t feel put out or have any negative feelings towards them if they came to you for help. It probably feels silly even to think you’d be upset with them. Try to understand that it’s the same when you’re the one making the ask. Don’t try to justify your fears, either. It’s ok to ask for help.
It’s Just Business
When you’re at work and realize you need help with something, that means something is on the line for your job. It could impact students, colleagues, or overall work performance. If you focus on just the business side of things, then the best course of action is to ask for help to ensure that the problem in front of you is resolved as well and as quickly as possible. That fear that is telling you the worst-case scenario of your situation going sideways should encourage you to ask for help because you want to avoid that. From a professional standpoint, you want to show you can put business needs above your pride.
You Want to Improve
You are reading this blog because you’re struggling to ask someone for help or think you might in the future and want to get better at it. You came to this page for help. Take that same approach the next time you realize you might be in over your head and want some assistance. The mindset you take shouldn’t be one where you berate yourself for not being good enough; it should be an acknowledgment that you want to get better no matter your current skill level.
What to Say and How to Say it
If you’re struggling to ask for help, you internalize the situation and take it personally. So, before you talk to the person you will be asking for help, talk to yourself. This will sound a little weird but talk to yourself in the third person. Try this:
“You made a mistake, and that’s normal. Now you can take the next best step and ask for help to fix it.” Or “You’re stressed out right now, so take a couple of breaths and then get a second set of eyes on the situation so that you can handle this the best way possible.”
The third-person perspective will help you get some distance from the problem and not take it so personally.
Next up, you need to ask for help. Who is the most qualified and available person to help you in this situation? Chances are you have a chain of communication you are supposed to go through when things get rough. If you’re worried about talking to your supervisor, remind yourself that you’re taking the initiative to fix the problem, which is the best route of action even (and especially) if you were the cause of the problem.
Remember that the most critical factor at hand is the problem you’re trying to solve. It’s easy to try and protect ourselves from the negativity we expect when asking for help by apologizing several times and maybe even talking down about ourselves to the person we are talking to. After all, we are taking time out of their day because we couldn’t handle something, right? Wrong. Asking for help is an entirely normal thing to do.
The better way to approach your ask is this:
- Reach out directly. Apologize only if you are interrupting
- Let them know that you could use some assistance
- Tell them if it’s urgent or if you need help when they have a moment
- If it’s essential, don’t minimize it because you don’t want to impose, be reasonable about when this issue needs to be fixed.
- Explain the situation, admit if you made a mistake
- Explain the mistake if you can and either mention how you know the correct route now or ask for further instruction on how to avoid making the same mistake again
- Please don’t spend time complaining about whoever caused the problem
- Thank the person sincerely and show gratitude without belittling yourself in the process
- “Thank you so much; you’re a lifesaver.” Not “I can’t believe I couldn’t handle this. Thank you for fixing my mess.”
The biggest lesson to learn when asking for help is to take yourself out of the equation entirely. When things go wrong, we all have a lot of emotions, and if you focus on tearing yourself down, you’re only adding problems. Asking for help is something everyone does and should do. Things end up better when we work together, so keep these tips in mind the next time you hesitate to ask for help.