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How to Ask for Help

“Asking for help with shame says: You have the power over me. Asking with condescension says: I have the power over you. But asking for help with gratitude says: We have the power to help each other.”

“Help” comes in many forms: feedback, information, a resource. Here are two posts that can make asking easier.

Blog: “What’s one thing I could do better?”

Blog: How to ask for help

Systems for Managing Your Network

Systems are great! Until they become unwieldy beasts with a life of their own that make you forget why you wanted a system in the first place.

The system in this post helped me to be more mindful of people in my network and not lose touch. Now, though, I feel like my habits for doing that are strong enough that I don’t need the system as much. Whatever system you choose, make sure it’s simple and human - i.e., makes you mindful of other people. As soon as it feels like just another data entry exercise, stop and rethink it.

Blog: The best system for managing your network

Related to the Additional Exercise

“What does success at work really mean?” by Paolo Gallo

Blog: The HR Director I wish I knew

Related Chapters in Working Out Loud:

  • Chapter 6 - Leading with Generosity

  • Chapter 14 - Deepening Relationships through Contribution

  • Chapter 15 - How to Approach People

Additional Exercises & FAQ

Something you can do in less than 10 minutes

This is a variation of the exercise in the “If you need to do less” section.

  1. Read the contribution checklist.

  2. Circle the contributions you are most comfortable with.

  3. Go through your relationship list and offer something you circled.

Just do ONE thing now. If you need help, take a look at the examples in the next column.

Something you can do in less than 10 minutes

Schedule three appointments in your calendar (they could be as short as 10 minutes!) to offer three more contributions over the next month.

Q: Why do I even need a checklist for contributions? Isn’t that overthinking it?

If you find it feels complicated or artificial, don’t use it. My experience is that most people aren’t aware of all they have to offer - and aren’t in the habit of making a wide range of contributions even if they are aware. When that’s the case, the checklist can serve as a useful reminder.

Examples, Templates & Media

Examples from My Contribution Checklist

Offer attention: I will often search for someone’s online presence and Follow them on Twitter. That doesn’t require any work on their end (empathy!) and yet moves the relationship from “They don’t know I exist” to “They may have seen my name.”

Show appreciation: I’ll read what they may have posted or blogged about, and hit the Like button if I like it. (Tip: Don’t Like it if you don’t like it.)

Share interesting or useful resources: For me, “interesting or useful” means I choose things I genuinely care about and that others would likely not have seen. For me, that means I usually avoid news, pop culture, and cat videos. I’m mindful not to share too much. Some may say “sharing is caring” but “oversharing is uncaring.”

Note that you’re not limited to just sharing links. Here’s an example of a long-form recommendation: Blog: Everybody Matters

Ask a question: I try to make my questions meet three criteria:

  • I genuinely don’t know the answer

  • Google doesn’t know either

  • Others would be interested in the answer

Answer a question: This is a good empathy practice. Will the other person think I’m bragging? Or a know-it-all? Or condescending? Whenever I offer an answer of some kind, the tone I try to achieve is informal, helpful, and humble. I also try to be open to my answer not being THE answer. It’s important to show you’re open to other responses and possibilities (including that I may be wrong or that others’ experience may differ wildly from mine).

Introduce people: You practiced this in Week 8, and it’s worth repeating: Get the permission of both parties first. The same holds true when someone asks me to make an introduction. I’d rather spend an extra minute asking than a much longer time apologizing for a potential burden they never asked for.

Offer feedback: My view is that the world is full of critical feedback, and doesn’t need mine. So I don’t publish one-star reviews or other negative feedback. What you might think is helping others can easily come across as a rant.

I try to offer Appreciation, Context, and Value as we do for other contributions. When it comes to “value” think of you feedback as beginning with “and” or as a question that invites them to explore a topic instead of having to defend themselves.

e.g., “I really enjoyed your book. [AND] It would be great if there was an audio version in the future.”

e.g., “I loved the talk. Do you have any examples of when things didn’t work our so well?”

I try to strike a similar tone as when I’m answering a question: informal, helpful, and humble.

Share your work in progress: By now this has become a deeply-ingrained habit. I share ideas, half-baked materials, early versions. The key, I think, is simply letting people know what they can expect. So if it’s just an idea, I’ll say that (in a blog post, for example), and then ask for their input.

Sharing work in progress is extraordinarily useful because the feedback makes the work better, and the connections leads to other ideas and opportunities I’d have never discovered otherwise. Here’s a good example:

Blog: What could WOL for Healthcare look like?

Share your experience: You can limit this to work topics, of course, but I choose to share a broader range of experiences. Some of these are quite personal, and yet I’ve found that has made me feel my work is more authentic while it has also led to people in my network being able to better relate to me as a person. Again, the tone I try to use is informal, helpful, and humble.

Blog post: Your one word

Blog: The pause button that could save your life

Blog: A fire on the 23rd floor

Blog post: What happens after 400 days of meditation

Offer original ideas: The reason this is the last item on the list is that it can be the most difficult. Sharing work in progress is hard enough, but at least there’s the understanding that’s it unfinished and imperfect. Shipping something that’s suppose to be “done” can be daunting.

And yet the same rationale applies. Unless you’re building a bridge or skyscraper, most things allow for a version 2, and the feedback from your audience will either validate your idea and encourage you, or provide you with ideas for improvement sooner than you would get if you kept the work to yourself.

Blog: Introducing a new kind of Circle: WOL-SC

Blog: Working Out Loud: How will it scale?