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"I Hate Asking for Help"

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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 “no.”

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, TN.

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.”

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