How To Ask For Help, In Seven Steps
Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones said it best, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Mick’s still right about that. At one point or another, we all need some form of help, usually from our friends, but not always. Friend or not, very few of us really know how to ask for help, or respond to a denial of help, in the right way. And if you don’t ask for help in the right way, you risk coming off as a selfish jerk, or as if it doesn’t really matter in the first place. Getting the help you know you need really comes down to being an effective communicator. And it’s actually easier to do than it may seem!
The Right Approach
A select few individuals actually ask for what they need in a respectful and effective manner. And it is no surprise that those people get their requests filled, time and time again. Here is how they do it, and how you need to start doing it, as well:
-Prepare them. Rather than just blurt out what you want or need from someone, take a softer approach, such as saying, “I need to ask you a favor” or “I want to ask you about something I need help with.” By leading with this, you don’t blindside the person. It brings them comfort and makes them feel appreciation for you, since you give them the time (albeit seconds) to mentally prepare for your request.
-Tell them what you need. This is where you really need to be specific about what you want or need. You want the person to be able to answer yes or no, in direct response to your question. “Yes,” of course, is what you want. But even “No” will bring you clarity about what you need to do next (like move on to the next person). What you are trying to avoid is having them ask whether they can take some time to think about it, or state that they need to consult with others before committing. So, always try to ask for help in a way that will get you a straight yes or no response.
-Tell them why you need it (a justifier). This is a little behavior-influence voodoo magic! Study after study shows that people are more persuaded to say yes to a request when there is a justification that supports the reason for asking. Instead of just asking, “Will you cover my shift tonight?” a far more influential request would be, “Will you cover my shift tonight? I need to get home, since my babysitter canceled at the last minute and my 3-year-old son is home alone.” Just remember that your justifier always needs to be truthful.
-Tell them what’s in it for them if appropriate. People who aren’t close friends may see a request for a favor with a “what’s in it for me?” attitude. It never hurts to point out how you can, or are willing to help them, i.e. “If you’ll cover my shift tonight, I’ll work your next weekend shift,” or something equitable.
-Give them a way out. No one feels like doing a favor that is simply put upon them. By giving them a way to decline without egg on their face, you will make them feel much better about you. And when they do say yes, they will feel it was fully their decision – which is a really good thing. Oh, and if they decline, they would have hated you if you forced it upon them, so it is a good thing, either way.
-Remember appreciation and gratitude. Always thank them when they do accept your request. Reiterate how it is helping you, and reward them for the favor. A little gift is a wonderful way to show your appreciation. “Thanks for covering for me, last night. You really helped me out…so here is a little something for you – a bottle of my favorite wine.” And, by giving a gift, you position yourself to ask them for a favor again, if you ever need one down the road.
When people do help you out, they may come back and ask for a return favor, especially if you’ve offered to return the favor. They may not have read this article, to know the right way to approach the situation, but you have, so you can apply what you know to responding to their request.
Doing favors for one another is part of our nature. But we are not always taught the right way to go about voicing such a request. Making the effort to approach it in the above manner will greatly increase your chances of success. You will also be demonstrating to others how to effectively ask for such assistance from others.