Are you the sort of person who always asks for help, or are you the type who never asks and works it out on your own?
There are, of course, times when it’s appropriate to ask for help and other times when you really should just figure it out yourself. However, there are many people in business who won’t ever ask for help. These are people who’ve been brought up to be self-sufficient. They’ve been taught to try and figure things out themselves first before asking for help and in doing so often never end up asking for help.
So when the business world is turned upside down with new technology, new types of businesses, social media, new rules of engagement with customers and clients, it’s really hard for this type of people to ask for help.
As experts, they feel that they just can’t ask for help as it would be a sign of weakness in industries where weakness is frowned upon or will result in being treated like a pariah. No one wants this and so the questions go unasked.
I know as I’m one of those people. My parents brought me up to be independent and to make my own decisions in life. It’s served me very well for many years. But in recent years, I’ve seen a shift. I’ve watched as other people in my business circles got help and support that I didn’t. As I looked into it further, I realised that these people had simply asked for help.
There are two parts to this. The first is that those people started to develop relationships with the people they’ve asked for help from. They have made an effort to have a one-on-one chat with the leaders and to seek their advice.
The second part is as simple as these people asking specific questions about their business and getting answers that they could immediately work with, whilst others sat in the same room soaking up the information that was either generic or listening to other people’s questions and trying to figure out how to apply the answers to their own problems.
There is another level though and that relates to fear; fear of looking stupid or of having to admit failure or of having to admit to a lack of knowledge. All these fears are very real to the person who hasn’t asked the question but rarely for it to be thought true by others around them.
Experts are experts in their field or their business. The general community doesn’t expect an expert in one area of business to be an expert in everything.
When you ask a question that infers that you have failed at something or have a lack of knowledge in an area, you aren’t showing that, but rather you are showing your vulnerability. It is in doing this that you become more real as a person and other people will go out of their way to help and support you.
So how do you ask for help without admitting to failure? The first step is to start a general conversation with the other person and ask them about their business or more information about what they’ve been talking about if you’ve just listened to their presentation. In doing this, you are showing an interest in them and their business and most people love to talk about themselves, so they’ll happily share more of their information with you.
When the time is right, you then ask your specific question. By this time the conversation will be flowing and the person will be pleased that you are seeking their advice. The reality is it isn’t about you, it’s about them. They will feel like an expert because in seeking their advice you are telling them subtly that you consider them to be an expert whose opinion you value greatly.
Stop holding back. Put yourself forward and ask questions. The benefit of asking advice is the speed in which you will resolve the questions and the connections you make with the people you ask. Many will remember who you are and be receptive to questions in the future too.