Ask And You Shall Receive
By Ibby Smith Stofer
There is an old saying that I am sure you know well, ask and you shall receive. I am not talking of divine guidance or prayer, but rather how to ask for help from other people. Asking for help is something we all need but all too often do not seek, or seek in the wrong way. But what if you ask the wrong person, or ask the wrong question, or even worse don’t know how to ask?
It is important to be able to ask for help of the right people with the right approach. Bombarding people with multiple unclear requests or asking too many people will ultimately get you into a new quandary.
Recognizing that you need help in whatever problem or project you are working on is a key first step. Know that you may be an expert in B, but this one is more of an A issue, and that will allow you to reflect on who you know that can help you.
Reaching out to ask for help is often done with reluctance and this can make the question or description of the problem lack conciseness and clarity. It is important to be able to describe the situation clearly and to ask for specific help. If you don’t know what to ask, it is as fatal as not knowing whom to ask.
So don’t send off that instant message, chat, phone, or email to all your current and former colleagues as soon as you are struck with the reality that help is needed. Take the time to identify who can be the most help to you in this specific situation. Is it someone who has had a similar project or problem that they previously worked through successfully? Is it an expert in the field? Or a consultant you know that has similar experience? Whomever you identify, and it may be one or two individuals but not ten or twelve, preparing to ask is the next step.
Define the current situation in a clear and concise manner. State the problem as you see it and ask for their advice and opinions on how to proceed or solve the issue. Stop talking and be an active listener. If their opinions seem unclear, ask them to be more specific or restate what they said to test your understanding.
One last suggestion, be certain to thank them sincerely and let them know if you were successful in moving forward based on their advice. Even if you weren’t successful, sharing the status with those from whom you sought advice will keep the communication open. They will also be more willing to help you the next time because they know you appreciate their insight and expertise.
Best of luck and remember no one is expected to be the expert in all areas and no one is expected to have all the answers. Ask for help in a manner that will allow you to grow and allow those you ask to see you as a willing and appreciative learner.