Why is it so difficult to ask for help?

by Teboho Seretlo

In an article that I recently read, which led me to a TED talk with the same topic by Heidi Grant, I came across some very useful tips, coupled with a deeper understanding of why I am always struggling to ask for help. I used to be the top student in my class since primary school and getting a prize at every prize-giving ceremony was etched in my childhood memory. Seeing my parents sitting there and watching with pride as I stood up to claim my prize. I never participated in any sports. Could it be that the individual achievement was an incentive for me to perform well and that all the praises were for me and not a team? Could it be that I valued being viewed as an independent person who was good at solving her own challenges without “bothering” others and asking for help? Luckily, as I progressed in life, I quickly learnt that collaborating and asking for help is very normal and was not a sign of weakness on my part.

Some of the points that resonated with me more than others in the article are:

  1. If someone agrees to help, let them – and receive it gratefully. Getting help can mean giving up some control. Let the “helper” take ownership of what they have agreed to do. How many of you can relate, that when you are a businesswoman juggling many roles including motherhood, asking your spouse for help to look after the kids or help them with homework while you are busy attending to a deadline or business trip. This can be quite daunting. Sometimes we ask for help, we get a positive response, yet we still want to give a long list of “to-dos” for the spouse on what to do, when and how often. Meaning that we are not giving them full autonomy to do things in the way they are comfortable with. Could this be that we have trust issues? Why assume that my way is always the right way?

  2. If the request is denied, consider other options. Do not assume the worst about why someone turned you down. Yes, this sometimes results in us doubting to go and ask for help from the person who turned down our request before. Think about it, maybe the timing of your request was “wrong” – the person could have been swamped with other things at the time hence they could not help. Avoid having those “negative” conversations with yourself about the real reasons why that person declined your request for help. Getting help can also mean asking several people, in any case.

  3. Delegation – I have had the opportunity to mentor a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs in my business consulting company. A common thread during these mentoring sessions is how people struggle to delegate and I think that this is also another form of being unable/scared to ask for help. We want to hang on to it all because of the mentality that this is my business, my baby. But this often leads to your staff feelings disempowered or that they are not valued or trusted enough. Let alone the increased chance of burn-out on the part of the business owner. After-all, we all have 24 hours in a day, and we can only do so much.

  4. Ask in the face of discomfort. Notice any fear, anxiety or shame that arises as you proceed to ask for help. Label the emotions, summon your courage, and ask anyway. Am I embarrassed to ask for help? Am I scared that my request will be rejected? Personally, I have done this exercise to try and notice any feelings that arise within me when I am about to ask for help. I discovered that fear of rejection is the biggest thing that often keeps me from asking for help.

  5. Use assertive communication skills. Be open, direct, and respectful: do not waffle; otherwise, you come across as making a frivolous request that you have not thought through properly.

  6. Be as clear as possible about what you need. Try to make your request simple and specific. If you are not sure exactly what kind of help you need, rather ask the person from whom you are seeking help if you can talk it over together.

However, do not be afraid to ask for help. Go ahead, ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness or failure.

Read the original article on this link: https://psyche.co/guides/how-to-ask-for-help-without-discomfort-or-apology?position=10&utm_source=pocket_mylist

Teboho Seretlo is the managing director and founder of Seretlo Investments (Pty) Ltd, a business support services consultancy which assists micro, small and medium enterprises with business intelligence support, business plans and investor pitch decks, funding applications, business cost optimization and business improvement processes. She also ran a franchised premium dry-cleaning outlet of her own for 5 years. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Maths from University of Fort Hare, Management Development Programme (MDP) from GIBS and an International Executive Development Programme (IEDP) GIBS & Rotterdam School of Management. She has over 25 years working experience with corporates such as Nedbank, Momentum, The Coca-Cola Company, SABreweries and Unilever, where she gained experience in a variety of disciplines including B-BBEE &transformation, financial management & budgeting, project management, decision-support, business strategy & analysis as well as research. She is passionate about gender issues and does volunteer work for women empowerment organisations.

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