Asking for Help is a Skill

With the demands of getting the Covid-19 vaccine to the public, you’ve got more to do than ever before. You can’t do everything that needs done all on your own. You need help and the best way to get it is to ask for it. Asking for help may not come naturally to you. It’s a skill and you can learn it. 

Asking for help is hard. You hate to admit (even to yourself) that you can’t do something on your own. As an empathetic person, you understand that everyone needs help and you don’t want to be a burden by asking for something. You have high expectations of yourself.  On top of that, we live in a culture that values independence. 

Even if you’ve never had to ask for help, if you’ve always been the one doing the helping, or you think you don’t need help right now, know this. Needing help doesn’t mean you’re weak or incapable. 

And with a few of these tips, you can develop the skill of asking for help. 

How Do You Know You Need Help? 

Here’s what it looks like, so you can recognize the signs:

  • When someone asks you a question, you feel agitated. You speak too fast just to get the conversation over with quickly.
  • You’re short-tempered and snap at your staff. 
  • Before you even start your day, you wish it were over and even feel resentment for having to be at work.
  • You find yourself going over the day’s tasks in your head to the point of not being present doing the task at hand. 
  • You feel angry and frustrated but can’t pinpoint a reason why.
  • You’re uncharacteristically cranky and whiny.

These are a few of the signs and symptoms. Everyone around you knows that you need help. What they don’t know is how they can help. People really do want to help. It feels good to be of service. 

Your Coworkers Want to be Helpful

You need to be open, honest, and direct with your team when asking for assistance. Don’t make them try to figure out why you seem stressed and what they can do. For example, if the phone’s ringing is starting to make you feel anxious and frazzled, ask your team if they would help you with a specific task for a set amount of time. 

Say to your team, “I really need a break from the phones, can one of you please answer the phone for the next 15 minutes. This little break will really help me.” If you’ve been a good leader and have done favors for your team and treated them with respect, you’ve built up goodwill. It’s ok to withdraw some goodwill right now.

People like to help. It makes them feel valued. Say please and thanks. When you’re busy and distracted, you may forget the niceties. If you’ve forgotten you can leave yourself a post-it note near the door you exit and say to your team, “Thanks for all your help today. We did it!”

Asking Your Boss for Help

I know it can be intimidating to ask your boss for help.You don’t want to be seen as incompetent or incapable. Remember that just as you are there to serve your team as their leader, your boss is there to serve you as your leader. 

What specifically do you need from your boss? Maybe you need one of the new processes or procedures explained to you verbally instead of via email. 

Say, “I really appreciate all you’re doing to keep me up to speed, but I’m an auditory learner. It would be so helpful if you could just walk me through this over the phone.”

If you need more staff say, “The budget is a priority for me, but right now I could use more hours. We all need to get this learning curve shortened. Could I use more hours for the next two weeks?’

If you need a day off, go ahead and ask for it. You’re not a robot. You can say, “As you know, I’ve put in 40 extra hours over the past two weeks. I’d like to take next Monday off to recharge.”

I’ve noticed that sometimes people call their boss when they need help and say things like, “I’m overwhelmed. I can’t do this anymore.” This isn’t asking for help so much as asking your boss to figure out why you’ve said this. He may assume you just need to vent. That’s fair because you’ve given him no context. Don’t ask your boss to figure out what you need. Be direct and ask for what you need. 

Even Your Customers Can Help You

It sounds counter-intuitive, but you can ask your customers to do things for you. You’re not going to ask them to answer your phones, but you can ask them to be patient while you work through the challenges of the vaccine distribution. You’ve earned some goodwill from these people with your consistent good care and all the special little things you do for them. They understand that you’re under extreme pressure and really don’t want to make your life harder. 

You can say, “I understand you’re very anxious to get the vaccine. We’re working very hard to get it to you in the easiest and safest way possible. I ask that you bear with us.”

Family and Friends

If you’re working extra hours trying to get your patients immunized, there are things at home that aren’t going to get done. Go ahead and ask your family to pitch in. They want to help you as they know better than anyone that you need it. Be specific and tell your husband or wife exactly what you need them to do: empty the dishwasher every day, do the laundry every week, get the items on the grocery list. Push your kids a little bit. They’d love to learn a new skill set like sweeping, vacuuming, chopping vegetables, or folding towels. 

Even your friends can help you even if it’s just letting you know it’s alright that you’re not available to them like you used to be. For example, your friend may say, “I can tell you’ve been really stressed out and distracted. How can I help you?” You can ask for space by saying, “It would be so helpful if you just forgive me ahead of time for being unavailable for a few months.”

Final Thoughts

What does it mean when we hear “we’re all in this together?” Is it just words? I think it means that there is going to be more give and take than ever before. No one can do the big stuff on their own anyway, so let’s stop pretending that we can. Instead, let’s begin to work as a community, and ask for help often and give it too when we’re able. 

Asking for help is good self-care. Learning this skill will make you a better leader. You’ll be more effective, and it’s also a great way to model for others how to ask for help. 

So, ask yourself what it is that you need. Be honest with yourself. Then ask for help clearly and concisely. 

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