Asking for help is key to living an adaptable life, and boy, it’s a tough one for me. I’m getting a lot better at it.
I was in Belgium last week, transferring through Heathrow to and from Brussels. On a good vertigo day, I can do slow-to-medium speed up-escalators. Down-escalators are difficult under almost any circumstances, because they trigger my oscillopsia. Whenever I look down, the floor moves. Sometimes it moves more than other times. I saw the speedy up-escalator to Heathrow security and asked for the elevator. The nice people directed me.
Later, while we walked around Brussels in the evening, I asked people for help on cobblestones. Because I don’t know where down is, and cobblestones require fast ankle adjustment, I need another person’s (significant) support walking. Julian Harty was one of the people I used for support. When I had dinner with Jurgen Appelo, I used him for support, too. I’m now so accustomed to needing physical support, I’m not sure I even asked. I may have just grabbed his arm. (Yikes!)
But asking for help is a gift to the other person. It’s a way to build your influence with the other person, and a way to learn without crashing and burning in the process. You’re thinking, a way to build your influence? Yup. Here are some quotes from Jeffrey Pfeffer in Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t:
“The surest way to keep your position and to build a power base is to help those with more power enhance their positive feelings about themselves.”
“Rejecting an appeal for help violates an implicit and socially desirable norm of being “benevolent.””
“We are taught from childhood to be generous, so we are inclined to grant the requests of others almost automatically. Furthermore, saying yes to a request for assistance reinforces the grantor’s position of power.”
“…we are flattered to be asked for advice or help”
Kind of astonishing, that asking for help is such a good idea, eh? I’ve been practicing for a number of years, but not where it meant so much. Now, I really need to ask for help. Otherwise, the consequences can be quite severe.
When you are learning a new skill, adapting to a new environment, consider all the ways you can ask for help. Asking for help is a sign of strength, of self-knowledge, not a sign of weakness.
So, think about asking for help. Start with something that’s easy for you. Maybe asking for a recipe? That’s easy for me, because I’m secure in my capabilities as a cook. I’m also fashion-challenged, so asking for help and advice on clothing is easy for me. Note that for me it’s easy to ask for help on two extremes: something I’m good at: cooking, and something I’m not good at: fashion. It’s the things I’m working on and practicing that I have a difficult time with that I have trouble asking for help with. That’s because the I’m caught between wanting to practice and wanting to be get the work done quickly. But asking for help allows me to learn and finish quickly.
Think about when you can ask for help. And how. Not to have other people do the work for you. But to aid and assist you. To help you. It’s truly a gift to the other person. And to you.
- All Elevators Arrive on the Left
- Inflicting Help vs. Asking for Help