"I Hate Asking for Help"
Excuse #2 “I Don’t Want to Impose on My Friends” continued...
She needn’t have, says Reynolds. “Ultimately, it’s up to the other person to
decide whether your request crosses the line.” Most people like to be helpful,
especially if you’ve given them a hand in the past. If you’re not sure, then
before you reach out, ask yourself if the friendship could withstand a
When Marcus finally followed up, Anita gladly agreed to help; as it turned
out, she was eager to see her friend. The two enjoyed a whirlwind weekend of
painting and reminiscing, transforming Marcus’s apartment. Marcus also learned
enough to go it alone with a paintbrush and small tools. “Anita’s help actually
made me need less assistance on other projects,” she says.
Whenever you ask for a significant favor, acknowledge that it’s a big deal
(“I know I’m asking a lot”) and give the person permission to decline up front
(“I understand if it’s too much and you can’t do it”). And of course, give
assurances that you’ll return the favor when she needs it.
Excuse #3 “I’ll Look Incompetent”
When she took her job as director of career services at a liberal arts
college, Kim Heitzenrater knew there’d be a learning curve. Nonetheless, during
her first three months, whenever students asked her questions about applying to
graduate programs, she researched the information herself, even though it would
have been much faster and easier to check directly with faculty advisors. “I
was afraid that if I asked too many questions, the dean would think he’d made a
mistake in hiring me,” says Heitzenrater, 40, a mother of two in Sewanee,
While Heitzenrater’s attitude is common, particularly in the workplace, not
tapping others’ knowledge is counterproductive, says Karissa Thacker, Psy.D., a
New York City management psychologist who specializes in career issues:
“Everybody expects you to ask technical questions.” Heitzenrater
ultimately reached the same conclusion. “I wasted too much time looking up
everything myself,” she admits. “If I’d asked my colleagues for help early on,
I would have gotten up to speed on the job faster and developed relationships
with them sooner.”