We don’t think of the things we say and do in terms of skills, we just say or do them. But most everything we say and do involve skill sets. Asking for help requires numerous skills if we expect a good result…. Maximizing the chance for the person we ask for help to be willing and agreeable. They will respond more favorably because we chose them thoughtfully, trusted them; spoke clearly about our need; explained the problem and our desired solution -- and because they work well in a team. Trust, speaking and problem solving are skills. Our success in building a PSN that works well for us and for those helping us is enhanced by – even dependent upon -- how well we use these skills. Here are some helpful guidelines with the skills you’ll want to use when asking for help.
Emotion Management or Control
About Emotions: When asking for help, emotions can help or hurt. If we pay attention to our emotions, we will discover how they can work for us or against us. When our emotions are heightened, when we’re overly anxious, stressed out or excited, our ability to think, to use logic is hijacked. If asked: “What were you thinking?” and we reply with: “I don’t know, I wasn’t thinking” - we are right! Our brains don’t function; we don’t think when our emotions are heightened or out of control. Asking for help requires us to think. If we expect and want good outcomes, we must learn to manage or control our emotions.
4 Simple Steps to Managing Emotions
- Stop: As soon as we notice that our emotions begin to rise, stop talking.
- Chill out: think of something or do something that will bring a feeling of calm.
- Think it through now that our emotions are under control.
- Talk it through with a trusted family member, friend, or resource.
- Reconnect with the person we are asking to help us when it is safe to do so.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Feeling entitled to help
- Whining when asking.
- Being Inconsiderate of helper’s needs.
- Failing to explain fully and clearly our needs and expectations.
- Allowing uncontrolled emotions to cause unnecessary conflicts.
- Allowing fears and anxieties to prevent us from reaching out and asking for help.
Problem Solving and Decision Making
About these skills: Good problem solving and good decision making require us to think. First think about how we want the solution or decision to turn out - a vision of what would be OUR successful outcome. Then, go back to the beginning to figure out people, organizations or professionals we need to include and things we have to do to help our ideal outcome a reality.
- Identify the real problem to be solved and be specific about the tasks and help you need. If this is difficult, then asking for help in doing this is our first step. Brainstorming with a trusted other can be valuable!
- Make sure the right persons are being asked to help and give these persons the necessary information about the task. Let them know our vision and desired outcomes – help them be part of the solution to the problem.
- Let these persons know what you expect/hope will happen if/when they run into a problem with the task.
- Build in back-up plans if the person committed to helping, at the last minute, is unable to help. Plan in advance for a way in which they, too, can reach out for help.
- Identify the decision that is needed to make and what outcome is wanted.
- List the steps needed to have the decision or choices turn out well.
- Consider the worst that can happen if a decision or choice fails to turn out the way intended. Think about how a team might deal with it if it doesn’t work out.
- Consult with trusted family or friends or advisors if the decision is important to you and to those you love and care about. Seek their input – ask for their help in figuring out what might be the best decision for you.
Mistakes to Avoid: Problem Solving and Decision Making
- Solving the wrong problem or making the wrong decision – inevitably there will be times when wrong turns are taken. Be easy on yourself & recalibrate.
- Failing to consider how the solution or decision will affect others.
- Neglecting to think the solution or decision through and ending up with unwanted results. There ALWAYS are unintended consequences. With planning and support we roll better with the punches and bounce back with alternatives and good humor.
- Beating ourselves up instead of looking at what we can do differently in the future.
- Failing to fix a problem or decision that is not working, quickly.
- Asking people to help with tasks they can’t or don’t do well. Remember, an “ASK” is only an “ask” when “no” is an acceptable response. Allow for this and avoid making others feel guilty for things they can’t or don’t want to do.
- Allowing fears and anxieties around rejection to interfere with asking for help.
- Believing you don’t matter and not asking – not allowing others to help. Remember, we all need to matter to others – so offer the opportunity.
- Assuming it’s all about you when someone says ‘no’, they can’t help you solve a problem or are unwilling to help you talk through a decision you need to make.
- Seeking help from those whom have consistently demonstrated that they don’t follow through, cause more problems and make poor choices/decisions. Remember to say thank you, and move on.
- Overloading people with tasks – asking too much of too few.
- Forgetting to express gratitude and appreciation for the help we receive - even when someone declines.
Trusting and Being Trustworthy
Have we ever heard “I don’t know who to trust anymore”? Many of us have thought it or stated it. Or, have we felt the let down from placing trust in the wrong people? Most of us have. Being trustworthy is as important as placing trust in others. Here are some simple steps to practice when placing trust in others.
The four zones of trust: 1. Has demonstrated total trustworthiness. 2. Has demonstrated trust in some areas but not all. 3. Neutral zone – We don’t know yet because not enough time has passed to observe pattern of behavior. 4. Has demonstrated untrustworthiness in areas that are important to us - no trust in this zone at all.
Even VERY trustworthy people will occasionally fail to follow through or disappoint us. Over time it’s the balance that is important.
Steps to Establish Trust
- Think about what trust means in a relationship with this person. What do you want to trust this person with or for?
- Observe patterns of behavior over time to decide if this person is trustworthy with issues or things that are important.
- Allow enough time to pass in the relationship before moving from a neutral zone into one of the two trust zones.
- Let the person know what trust means to you in all aspects of the task.
- Demonstrate your own trustworthiness.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Confusing nice with trustworthy.
- Trusting people who have demonstrated they are untrustworthy to follow through as promised.
- Failing to demonstrate trustworthiness for others.
- Ignoring patterns of untrustworthiness, no trust.
- Expecting others to be trustworthy in all things.
Listen to Understand and Speak to be Understood
About Listening and Speaking: Effective listening and speaking are skills that require us to use our emotional control skills. When our emotions elevate, we miss parts of what is said and speak without thinking it through. To determine if you heard what the speaker intended you to hear, always repeat and ask if what you heard was what they meant. When speaking, listen to yourself to make sure you said what you wanted to say and the listener has all they need to know to help you and minimize surprises. Try asking the person with whom you are speaking to tell you what they heard and be patient with “correcting”. We all have our own filters and occasionally tune out others. Remember your goal: understanding.
Steps for Listening and Speaking
- Listen with intent to hear speaker’s intention.
- Demonstrate respect and interest in the speaker and what is being said.
- Stay focused on the speaker until he/she is finished talking.
- Apologize if you interrupt before the speaker has finished.
- Ask questions to ensure that you understand what was said.
- Stay focused. Avoid appearing bored or disinterested.
- Words have meaning. Do you really mean a few minutes’ time or a few hours?
- Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.
- Speak to be understood and be specific when asking for help.
- Know what you want to achieve by speaking and confirm with the listener that you have been understood, accurately.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Assuming without asking for clarification.
- Speaking too fast.
- Leaving out important information and facts or misleading.
- Using words that do not reflect what you mean.
- Allowing emotions to get out of control.
Organization, Planning, Prioritizing & Vision
About organization, planning, prioritizing and vision: Some people are very organized while many are not. If you are not skilled in organizing, planning and prioritizing, ask for help from someone who is skilled. It’s important to value your helper’s time and willingness to help. Having a well thought out plan and prioritizing prevents conflicts and disappointments. Also having a vision of what the end result should be or look like helps the team work toward that goal.
Steps for Organizing, Planning, Prioritizing & Vision
- First think about what it is that needs to be achieved – the perfect ending or vision.
- Make a list of all the tasks that need to get done for this perfect outcome. Organize the list with first things first. Ask for help if this proves difficult.
- Prioritize for the most important tasks and when or how they need to get done. Visualize each task, the next task, which leads to the next task until the task has been completed successfully in your head and on paper.
- Include what needs to be done (tasks) and how you’d like to have these done.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Asking for help without a plan.
- Creating unnecessary confusion and added work for your helpers.
- Failing to think through as carefully as possible what needs to be done and in what order.
- Blaming others for disorganized chaos or giving up too soon. Consider inviting others to help resolve what appears chaotic.
Like trust, respect is earned daily through our actions, behaviors and attitudes and words. There are two distinctions to be made when referring to respect. There is respect for and value human beings, the environment and for things. We are not abuse, misuse or take for granted people or things, our own or the possessions of others. We are to treat all with respect. Then there is the respect for an individual’s personal characteristics when interacting with them. Do they exhibit behaviors, attitudes and speak words consistent with good character and values that earn us respect?
Easy to remember: First, earn respect, then give respect and finally, you will be respected. Ask: do my current beliefs, attitudes, and values promote genuine respect for others and for myself? If not, learn and practice the skills and attributes that attract respect. A successful PSN is dependent upon the team, individually and collectively, demonstrating respect.
Respect is essential when asking for help. People are far more willing to help in time of need when they know that you respect them and their willingness to support you in your PSN.
Steps to Acquiring Respect
- Closely examine your core belief, attitudes and values toward yourself and toward others.
- Discard or modify those beliefs and traits that prevent or undermine your ability to respect self or others.
- Adopt or develop beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that work for you and not against you when striving to earn respect.
- Be more sensitive, considerate and compassionate with others even when asking for their help and they have declined.
- When treated disrespectfully, don’t react in kind. Use emotion management so you’ll have no regrets.
- Promote a sense of worth and value in others even when asking for help has not turned out as expected or wanted.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Demand respect; refuse to earn it.
- Believe you are entitled; demanding; don’t have to earn respect.
- Withhold respect from others due to appearance, cultural or ethnic differences, economic, age or sexual orientation.
- Attempt to appear respectful to deceive or manipulate others.
- Ridicule, embarrass or participate in destructive gossip.
You matter. give yourself the best chance with success in asking for help, skillfully.