Is Asking for Help a Sign of Weakness or Strength?

exercise things I know how to do

May the odds be ever in your favour. [The Hunger Games]

Are people who ask for help considered to be lazy or needy? Is asking for help a sign of weakness or strength?



My Experience and Perception of Asking for Help

Let me get this out of the way first: I am one of those people who would rather poke my own eyes out with a hot rod than ask for help. Is it pride? Is it misconceived self-sufficiency and independence? Is it lack of trust in people? As I explore my own perceptions and misconceptions, one thing is clear: I don’t like delegating tasks and I’d rather do them myself. Some of you will already think this is not a clever strategy in life.

Let’s explore the whole concept of asking for help further.

We All Need Help, Whether We Like It or Not

Life, as we all know, isn’t always plain sailing: things may not go as planned, illness may strike or we may lose our job… the list goes on.

We like to think we are independent, strong-willed and determined to achieve our goals. Unless we live in splendid isolation, every so often we need to engage with other people. How do we see our relationship with other people? Are we seeing others as helpers and supporters? Do we feel the need to give more than receive (or viceversa?).

There will be times when asking for help is inevitable: we all need to ask someone to cover for us when we go on holiday or to babysit children to afford a rare night out.

It Would Be Nice If People Offered Help Without Having to Ask for It

Some people succeed in getting help, without even asking for it, down to an art. They just simply receive (or at least, it may seem to be that way to the untrained eye).

If you are feeling too proud to ask for help, that’s a nice position to be in: you get, you don’t ask. But what if help simply doesn’t arrive?

Fear may be one of the reasons why we don’t ask for help. Do we fear being considered as weak?

Many successful people ask for help all the time: they may require technical information, resources, manpower.

Other People Are Too Busy To Help and You Are Too Busy To Do Others a Favour

Sure, we are all busy, and assume that other people are so busy that they don’t have time to help a friend in need. Is that true?

Let me ask you something: do you feel annoyed when you receive a request to do a favour to someone? Therefore, do you feel that when you need a favour you don’t ask for it because you worry you might annoy your friends or contacts?

Video: The Courage to Ask for Help

It can be hard at times to let down the mask and ask for help. It takes courage to ask for help. This video from Forbes  explains how asking for help can open up new avenues for collaboration.


If You Don’t Ask You Don’t Get

It seems this old adage is still valid, whether we like it or not. Do you think it will really hurt your feelings if you ask one person for help and he/she says no? What about if you ask 10 people and the 10th person says yes? Will it still be so unpleasant and uncomfortable to receive a negative answer after the 3rd or 5th time or will you start taking these answers less personally? If this sounds too daunting, why not experiment asking for one favour to one very trusted and understanding friend who will not judge you?

Audit Your Strengths and Weaknesses: Exercise

Say you really need help and let’s forget for a moment that you may feel uncomfortable asking for help. Is it realistic for you to do everything yourself?

Start by making a list of things you are good at and things you are bad at (even if it’s hard to admit that you are not perfect!).

It may be painful to be faced with our shortcomings, but without this useful exercise we can’t progress in life. Better get it out of the way now, if you still haven’t done it, and move on to the next step.

What if the odds are stacked in your favour? What if there were more people willing to help than people who don’t like to help (or even worse, judge you for asking for help)?

Do the exercise now: take a piece of paper or a paper notebook and divide the page into two parts with a line down the middle. On the left hand side, write a list of things you are good at, you feel competent doing, you are qualified and/or experienced in doing.

On the right hand side, write a list of things you need to do but you are not good at, not qualified or not experienced to do, things that require more than one person to achieve.

Things I know how to do Things I need to ask help for
123 123

What have you learned from this exercise?

Personally, I went through a similar exercise myself with life coach Patrick Orsini (website Patrick Orsini, twitter @orsini_coaching; facebook Patrick Orsini Coaching).

First of all, I discovered that I am still quite good at doing stuff myself (let me tell you, it’s very reassuring to feel competent to do things!), but I also had to be frank and admit that I have limitations. As a struggle in my own process of asking for help and listing things I simply can’t do by myself (it is taking me super-human efforts to write that list down), I am discovering that asking for help is not as bad as I thought. I still don’t like it and it simply doesn’t come natural to me, but then again when we are children we are constantly learning things that we are not familiar with and we don’t question the process because we don’t have years of resistance to contend with.

We never stop learning, even as adults. I have only recently learned that I need to ask help. I needed some tough talking from my coach and break down layers of resistance, but receiving feels so good.

Join the conversation on twitter: let me know what you think @paolaenergya