Everybody needs somebody’s help along the path to success. The key to getting others to help you (and thankfully, most people really do want to be helpful) is to know your audience, know what you want, and know how to ask.
Many people are uncomfortable about asking for help because they believe they’re showing a weakness. Which in turn makes them hem and haw and look uncertain (i.e. act weak). Knowing when and how to ask for help is, in reality, a valuable strength.
You need to ask the right people. When you need assistance, no matter how big or how small, the first thing you need to do is identify the right list of potential sources. Do your research to ensure that whoever you approach has experience (and some known success), in the situation at hand. Asking someone for help with issues they don’t understand will make them uncomfortable, and will get you nowhere.
Be specific about what you need and when you need it. Ask for what you need in an efficient, clear, and confident manner. This makes it easy for the person to actually give you the help you need.
Make your appeal appealing. Say that you need an office-mate’s help because of her particular skills. Everyone likes to share and show off their unique talents and strengths. Frame your request in a way that recognizes their skills and why you think they could be helpful. But be sure not to resort to flattery — at least not the shameless variety.
Give the person a gracious way to say no. Sometimes they don’t have time or expertise to be helpful. Allowing someone to say no gracefully will ensure you can approach them in the future with no unease. Simply say, “I know you’re extremely busy, so please feel free to say no if you need to.”
Help build a team environment. If you’re part of a team, it’s everyone’s job to help everybody else. This is a really good way to show some leadership and emotional intelligence through building team strength and unity by being generous to and supportive of your co-workers..
Show your gratitude. Thank people for their help, give credit publicly, and be sure to offer to reciprocate whenever you can. Not only is this simply good manners, it will create good feelings and lead to more help down the line.
Todd Noebel is the Director of Hiring and Professional Development with the Institute for Humane Studies and Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He has over 20 years of experience in human resources and recruiting in executive search as well as corporate settings.
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