knowing-when-to-ask-for-help

Are you asking for the help that you really need?

Have you ever had a task, like moving a big box that you knew was a bit much, and you should ask for help, but something deep down said, “you got this?” even when you clearly didn’t?

What you got was a hurt back and a bruised ego. All because you lack the ability to admit you need help.

The Incident

I was attending a conference recently, and while I was there, I had an epiphany.

I had an incredible realization of what ‘asking for help’ really meant – and that I wasn’t doing it.

I have always prided myself on my strength, my independence, and my ability to get through things without relying on the assistance of others. My independence had got me through junior high and high school, and it was getting me through life just fine – until that conference.

During a break at the conference, I realized that you don’t have to (and you shouldn’t) do things alone when you don’t have to.

Here’s what happened:

I was filling three coffees for a couple of friends and putting together a nice plate of snacks. The announcer came on – the next talk was starting, so hurry back to your seat NOW!

I tried to pick up all three coffees with the plate teetering on top. I was thinking that this might be a mistake, and as I thought that, the plate fell towards me, some of it falling on the floor, and I almost dropped the coffee. I was so embarrassed, trying to gather my composure and quickly put down what was about to fall. A conference vendor, standing near said,

“Can I help you take those back into the room?”

I instinctively replied:

“No, no, I got this, but thank you.”

I shuffled the three coffees and the plate of snacks into a more stable arrangement and headed back to the conference room, embarrassed about the whole ordeal.

The Epiphany

As I walked back into the conference room, still recovering from my little hiccup in the hallway, it hit me like an 18 wheeler.

Do I have a problem accepting help?

Clearly, I did.

And even in the most trivial situations.

Now, that kind of sucked.

I started to think about how many times I said, “no-no, I got this!” throughout the day, during the week, and over the course of the month.

How many times had I loaded myself with difficult tasks and ignored the gracious offers of help from friends and family?

How many times had I struggled to get through a to-do list by myself when I could have been asking those around me to lend a hand?

But what was I going to do with this new awareness?

Prior to the coffee incident, I was aware of my resistance to asking for help on big things, believing I could do it on my own – that I was capable and strong enough to take care of everything by myself.

Fierce independence and I go way back, so this was just a natural part of me. But, at the moment, I realized my inability to ask for and accept help extended to trivial things as well. Holy Awareness, Batman! I was shaken by the sheer number of micro situations to which I say “no-no, I got this” on a daily basis.

Here Come The Waterworks…

So, back to the conference.

I’m in the front row, and the presenter at the time looks to me and asks if I had any new breakthroughs or any plans for the future. I decided to get up and talk about my new awareness.

I walk to the microphone, loads of ideas in my head of how I was going to explain my epiphany and explain the awareness I now had over my behavior and how it sabotages my own success – taking on crap I should be asking other people to get done for me means I can’t get the real work done.

I started with the story about the coffee – and then suddenly I was in tears. Like Niagara Falls on stage.

“I …. Can’t ask for help…”

How freaking embarrassing. I DON’T CRY. Well, at least not over almost spilled coffee! Who does that? Apparently me, that’s who.

Imagine continuous sobbing over such a tiny thing – and in front of over 300 of your peers too. Yay.

Why was my face betraying me? I slumped back to my seat, obviously incapable of stringing together a legible sentence, and thought about why my body had suddenly turned on the waterworks.

Now, I’m not a big crier, ask any of my friends and family, and they’ll tell you that crying isn’t my thing. But at that moment, the universe seemed to decide that I wasn’t grasping the magnitude of my new awareness.

And It’s Not Just Me

I had a client who had built his entire website by himself, on WordPress – just because he could.

He handcrafted a 200-page behemoth of a website because he didn’t know who to trust with his project and figured he’d do better on his own.

Now, the problem is, this wasn’t his day job.

After a couple of years of not doing great on search engines, spending hours of his own time updating his site, and getting quite a few non-complimentary comments from staff and clients, he began to realize that maybe he might need a bit of help.

So, he started researching other websites in his industry. He ended up running into one of my client’s websites and found all my info in the footer. Did he get on the phone right away and give me a call? No. He called five of my clients and enquired about me before giving me a call.

The call went something like this;

“Hey, this is X. I’ve talked to 5 of your clients, and I’ve decided you are my new web designer.”

It was quite bizarre to get a phone call like that, but it was also brilliant.

Praise is always better when it comes in the form of references. 

For my now-client, finding someone, he could trust with his website was integral to running his business.

Admit you need marketing help… I know trust is hard.

It often seems easier to do everything by yourself instead of putting your trust in others. But making your to-do list longer than it has to be is a huge mistake – and will only cost you more time and money when you could have just asked for help.

X beat himself up, “I should have done this years ago. I’ve wasted so much time. There are so many crooks out there; I’ve wasted so much time and money when all I wanted was a website that looked good and got me more customers through the door.”

But, everything turned out okay in the end – because he trusted me to deliver an amazing website. It’s been two years since then, and his site now fuels his company’s sales, and his credibility in the market has skyrocketed.

When you trust people and ask for help, you can achieve great things. Even greater than if you had done it on your own.

So, if you’re struggling to get things done, or feel like everything is on top of you, stop and think for a moment:

Do you need help you’re not asking for?
It’s time to get back to doing what you love most and getting those jobs you hate off your plate. Let’s talk.

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Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond

Tracy and her team help B2B firms in the construction industry look and sound credible online and off.

She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of great companies being treated as commodities and competing on price because they don't look and sound as credible as they really are.

You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.