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Designed to Need Each Other, Why is So Hard to Ask for Help?

Try buttoning your shirt or blouse with one hand, it’s really difficult. Our hands were designed to work with each other to accomplish simple tasks. When you are sick, the entire body swings into action; the eyes don’t say, it’s not my problem, I can’t shed tears over a broken hand. Neither does the brain […]

Try buttoning your shirt or blouse with one hand, it’s really difficult. Our hands were designed to work with each other to accomplish simple tasks.

When you are sick, the entire body swings into action; the eyes don’t say, it’s not my problem, I can’t shed tears over a broken hand. Neither does the brain say: “I live in here, where it’s dark the whole day, sort yourself out!”

When it comes to working together as human beings, the goal is not to make as much as possible from others, the goal is to contribute to the whole, so all needs are met.  Why then is it so hard to as for help when you need it most?

Research says that asking for help is the problem. But it’s not just asking; it’s also how you ask.  With regard to asking, help rarely walks to you unless you ask for it; 90% of help we get comes because we ask.  Most people don’t ask for help because they don’t expect to get it, but scientists say when we ask, miracles happen.  Why then are we so reluctant to ask (for help) and when we do, we totally fail at it?

The other problem is that when we ask, we don’t do it in an effective way. Most people don’t know what they want or a vague in how they ask for what they want. Becoming a “master asker” requires you to know with detail what it is you are doing and what is missing. Your ask should not just be specific, you have to ask the right person, or the one most likely to point you to the right solution.

Wayne Baker, in his book All you have to do is ask: How to master the most important skill for success says: “People can’t help you if they don’t know what you need.” You may have been disappointed in the past, but this is no indicator of what might happen when you ask again.

My daughter is doing research on the afficiation between terrorist groups.  Her findings confirm what other researchers have said again and again: the loosest links are the most powerful.  Those fighting terrorism may be baffled that the most recent terrorist recruit is the one who blows up a mall.  It’s not the “experienced” terrorist who inflicts the biggest damage; the “surprise” element of the unlikely recruit point to the loose links theory.

In the same way, your loose links are the most likely to connect you to what you are looking for.  The paradox is that most people don’t ask, or reach out to their loose or dormant links.  Imagine all those answers, solutions and resources, left untouched, unused and wasted.

Studies show that failure to ask for help – from their employees, customers and suppliers – costs companies billions of dollars each year.

Similarly, leaders who don’t ask for help are less effective than those who ask for help.  Not asking for help – or not asking for help properly (in a way that you get the help you need) – is one of the most self-limiting, self-constraining and even self-destructive decisions we make as leaders.

The Post-COVID-19 is the beginning of an era in which the most successful leaders will be those who understand and invest in an infrastructure that maximizes asking (for help).  It’s time to mine the social capital, the non-performing assets of our internal and external networks. 

Nuturing and using this information, feedback, expertise and other resources is a function of how we relate to each other.  We are designed to need each other.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it is critical to our survival as a human race.  So, next time you are stuck, just ask!

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