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help scored in the sand

3 brilliant ways to ask for help

People often tell us they find asking other people for their time, help and support difficult. It can feel like grovelling, being demanding or disrespectful depending on how you think. This can often make requests appear clumsy and awkward. Being able to ask for help well builds relationships and is a key factor in managing your time well, as you can’t do everything yourself. Here are our top tips straight from our forthcoming book: 

1. Demonstrate respect for them in your request Don’t apologise for asking for help, this disrespects them and invalidates your request. Instead demonstrate your respect by telling them why you thought of them or why you value them. Some good examples are: ‘I saw this project and immediately thought of you’ ‘I want to ask you first because you’re so brilliant with the kids’ ‘I’m stuck on this and I know you’re great at analysing the detail’

2. Present the request in a way that connects for them People often explain and justify why they need help. This comes across as pleading and over justification, most people are really interested in your mountain of paperwork or what’s so important that it needs a meeting at 7pm. Instead ask for their help in a way that connect for them. To do this well, it helps to know the person and know what they are motivated by, it could be a chance to get recognition, develop a skill, or become more involved in the team. You could also offer something that appeals to them in return. Here are some examples: ‘It’s a chance to show the Board how much you’ve contributed to the thinking on this’ ‘They (the kids) need your calm influence on a school night’ ‘Can I buy you lunch and you help me work through the specifics in this proposal?’

3. Ask specifically for what you want Sometimes people can be too vague in their requests, which makes it hard for people to respond to. This is often out of fear or rejection or that that are asking too much. Being specific actually makes it easier for other people to say yes. Here are some examples: ‘Would you present the opening section of the board presentation on Thursday morning? It’ll be about 10 mins of the main presentation.’ ‘Could you babysit for me next Tuesday until around 9pm while I attend an important meeting at work?’ ‘I need help working out what’s missing and what questions to ask the technicians working on it’ Take time to plan how to ask for help, don’t make it up or say anything you don’t mean, that will only make you sound manipulative. Have a positive response ready for if they say no, don’t make them feel bad about it. If you keep the whole interaction positive they are more likely to offer you help in the future, knowing you won’t put them under pressure and that you value their input.

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