Can You Help Me? – The Right Way to Ask for Help at Work

August 6, 20192:13 pm
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Chances are, everyone would have ever been in a position to ask for other’s favour, especially in a crucial situation. Unfortunately, not everyone likes to be asked for help, especially if being asked rudely.

At the workplace where everyone wants to be seen as a professional, expert, and confident individual, asking for help can be a big deal. It, somehow, can be a kind of a sign that we are either incapable of doing tasks assigned or not confident enough with our decision. Yet, it is almost impossible for us as a social human being to not ask for a helping hand from someone else. Especially at a workplace where everything needs to be done perfectly and correctly, help and guidance are equally important.

See also: 3 Simple Tips on How to Tackle an Overwhelming Project

In such a situation, experts say that what you ask matters less than the way you ask it. So the question is, have you asked for help in the right way?

Heidi Grant, a social psychologist and a chief science officer at the NeuroLeadership Institute, in her research commented that most initiatives people use when asking for help are ultimately unproductive. Instead of leading people to help you, said Grant, they make people less likely to want to give help. 

If you want your coworkers to willingly lend you a hand, you should change your approach by adopting these simple tips.

First tips – When you want people to help you, make them feel in control of their decision

Grant mentioned that helpers are usually willing to help when they have control over their decision – specifically, it is not because they must help you but because they want to. Hence, you should ask help by avoiding pitfall phrases like ‘May I ask for a favour?’, ‘I feel terrible asking you this’, ‘I will help you if you help me’, or ‘It is just a tiny thing’. You should shift these risks by focusing on three reinforcement strategies, namely:

  • In-group which highlights shared experiences, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. Grant’s surveyed shows that including the word “together” when you ask for help, can give a great impact on the result.
  • A positive identity which focuses on each helper vision of positive identity. Different individual will have different traits of perspective so you should tailor your message. As an example, A will be more helpful when they are told that you can “help”. While B is helpful when they are told “care for all the natural world.”
  • Emphasise the feeling of effectiveness in your actions. Being effective can give meaning to what we are trying to convey. It also shows that we value other people’s time.
Second tips – Ask for help SMARTly

Following the previous effectiveness, you can arrange your question with the SMART technique. SMART is an acronym of Specific (be clear and to the point), Meaningful (ask when your question or help have meaning), Action-oriented (ask for something needed to be done), Real (be authentic), and Time-bound (be mindful with when to ask it). By using this technique, the helper will find it simpler to answer you as the method conveniently breaks down complex requests.

Suppose that you want to ask Merlin to translate your report, you can clearly convey your meaning by saying “Would you please translate and review this before I sent it to the manager? Your input really helped my pitch to succeed. Thanks.”

Third tips – Consider when to say THANK YOU

Some say that saying “thanks in advance” is a no-no phrase, but some do welcome it warmly. How so?

According to Grant, gratitude is a powerful boost to positive identity. She agreed that ‘thanks in advance’, ‘thanks for considering my request’, ‘I appreciate your help with…’ and other kinds of advanced thank you can positively impact on the helpers’ psychology, resulting in a higher chance of keeping individuals interested in helping you.

Another survey by Susan Whitbourne also revealed that the feeling of gratitude can result in positive behaviour and positive charge that boosts our emotional balance. However, some people might feel uncomfortable about being thanked, said Whitbourne. If it is a request, for example, you thank someone in advance for something, implying that he has to do the exact thing as you said. So, instead of a request, it will sound more like a demand which if the person you ask is having a tight schedule, they might leave you with no answer.

Therefore, as best as possible, you should express your gratitude in the right way by focusing more on generosity and selflessness. Read the situation and condition, then think whether your “asking for help” matters at the moment or not.

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