hen I found out I was pregnant, I spent a lot of time on the couch reading parenting blogs. Being thoroughly exhausted and unable to leave the couch ensured I did a lot of research and reading.
One of the themes that quickly became apparent was: It’s ok to ask for help. In fact, you need to ask for help, so get over feeling weird about telling people what you need. You just had a baby. You worked hard growing and delivering that baby. Why should everyone else just get lovely baby snuggles without doing your laundry or bringing you dinner?
This seemed like sound logic to me. So, from the very beginning of my parenting journey, I worked at absorbing and living this advice.
And work at it I did. I grew up in the south, where being indirect is a refined art. I practiced acknowledging my faults, failures, and limitations. And I practiced asking others to help me when I needed it. Check out this article for some ideas to help you get started with practicing asking for assistance.
I became more and more comfortable asking for help at work, too. Today, I have little hesitation in letting others know what I need.
Now that I’ve practiced this frame of mind for years, I’ve become aware of others’ willingness or fear in telling others what they need. Whether it has to do with parenting, work, or getting through a personal crisis, I see so many people who are miserable and stressed because they just won’t ask other people for a hand.
So for all those folks out there, here are my 9 lessons learned when it comes to asking for (and giving) help:
1.) “Lean On Me” was written for a reason
There is a reason that songs like “Lean on Me” were written and sayings like “it takes a village” are common. Because they’re true! We can’t do all of it alone! Furthermore, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. I’ve found that many people respect me more for being aware of the times I need help. You as well as your family, friends, and nonprofit benefit when you are aware of your limitations and make sure that someone else steps in to help cover the areas you can’t.
2.) Take a deep breath first
There have been multiple times, especially professionally, when I have hit a point of panic. This was usually accompanied by a physical feeling of being pulled in too many directions at once. Before asking anyone for help, take a deep breath. Give that panic a moment to dissipate. This gives you time to figure out exactly what you need before asking for it and to identify the best person to ask. Sometimes you might even realize that you don’t actually need assistance, just need a minute to calm down.
3.) Be direct
No one is going to know what you need unless you ask for it. Directly. People appreciate when others are direct with them. Not only are they more likely to help, but they’ll probably do a better job of helping when you are clear and direct.
4.) People want to help
There are so many reasons we hesitate asking for help. Sometimes we fear looking weak, losing respect, being vulnerable, or losing control. Other times we might think that our problems will seem insignificant to someone else. But most people actually want to help and don’t view us any differently. In fact, I often find that asking someone else for help can be a bonding experience and strengthens our relationship. I’ve learned a lot about my friends and co-workers by just asking them for help.
5.) Accept help when it is offered
Occasionally, there are really great people out there who offer help without ever being asked for it. If their offer is indeed helpful, accept it!
6.) Say “Thank you!!”
Someone spent their time and energy helping you out. So make sure you acknowledge that. My husband (pre-COVID) likes to drop a piece of chocolate on people’s desks when they go above and beyond for him. And never underestimate the power of a simple “thank you.”
7.) Create the culture
I’ve worked in places where the culture assured no one asked for help. And the company suffered for it through unhappy clients and stressed out staff. So if you are in a leadership role, make sure you contribute to a healthy, helpful environment by taking the lead on asking for help and acknowledging others who ask for help. Everyone will benefit.
8.) Pay it forward & return the favor
Make sure you help out others when you have the capacity, otherwise people won’t be interested in helping you.
9.) It’s ok to say “no”
Sometimes you just don’t have the capacity to take on anything else. So it’s ok to tell someone, nicely, that you can’t help this time. I always appreciate when someone is clear with me about their own limitations and their inability to take on additional responsibility. I’d much rather know that upfront than expect help that never actually comes.
Why I am Writing About This
I have watched many friends, family, and coworkers struggle at home and at work because they refuse to ask for, or accept, help. They are not alone; a lot of people struggle with acknowledging their limitations and asking for help. But facing life and the challenges it brings alone leads to sleepless nights, stress, and burnout. Fortunately, that unhealthy trifecta is completely avoidable with just a little practice at asking for help.
Could you or your nonprofit use a little help? Then check out our website and see if our coaching, board, strategic planning, or executive transition services would be right for you!
Additionally, check out the following Successful Nonprofits® resources if this post was helpful: