E is for EXPOSE
What stops you asking for help?
There are many reasons why we shy away from being vulnerable at work. There's a widely held assumption that showing weakness will relegate us from reaching our higher potential or that admitting we can make mistakes means we are somehow not built for greatness. But where does this attitude get us?
Why do we all have such trouble asking one another for help and how can we get over this?
First, let’s define what help is..
Help is when you make it easier for (someone) to do something by offering your time, services or resources. In order to get it, we have to be open to seeking it. This however is where the problems start and there's no way around it, we have to seek it to get to the next level.
There are several reasons why we keep up a facade and fail to ask for help:
Fear of appearing weak
No one likes to freely admit their lack of ability, but that’s exactly what we think we are doing when we ask others for assistance. The working environment is dictated largely by competitive attitudes and the desire to appear as knowledgeable as possible. Willingly showing another individual a weakness leaves us open to ridicule or so we think.
Many of us would rather blunder along in silence, than risk exposing ourselves. If I think about a recent experience whilst away on my Gross National Happiness course in Devon. We each had to deliver a meditation and mindfulness session as part of our assessment. I spent the weeks leading up to the session fretting about this, being surrounded by some of the most successful professionals in this field, I thought why would they want to help me?
When you ask for help, it forces us to give up our own power and rely on someone else to dictate the next set of actions. As psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham stated in their research on self-presentation, we spent a lot of time modifying, managing and withholding information about ourselves as a way of 'image management'. We only show one side of ourselves and our belief is that it's easier to keep up a mask/facade than destroy the image of ourselves that we have built up in another persons' head.
I'm a big one for 'self-sufficiency' much to my determent sometimes. But the reality is that it holds you back from growth. I'd spent a ridiculous amount of time fretting and visualising all kinds of disaster scenarios, when instead in two short conversations I was able to tap in to the brilliant minds around me to get to the next level.
Fear of being a burden/rejected
The biggest hurdle around asking for help is that people believe the cost of that request for help will outweigh the effort provided by the helper. In short we perceive it to be a massive hindrance for someone to help us. We get so consumed with our own discomfort we fail to look at the bigger picture.
The reality is that if the request is stated in such a way that is specific and direct, the helper can immediately outline the implications and the benefits of providing the help.
Most of the time we are not able to articulate what we need, how the help will take us to the next level and why we are stuck in the first place. Instead we fret and stay stagnant.
Fear of being beholden to another
The last fear is born out of our need to maintain balance and equilibrium. 'If I ask for help..what will it cost me?' 'What will I need to do for them in return and can I actually deliver on that?'
These fears percolate in our minds and again stop us from taking action because we want to avoid shifts in power.
If I'm honest this was a massive barrier for me on my course. Not only was the idea of being a burden an issue but also I wondered if I asked for help, would I have anything of value to give in return?
If we let our inner critics get the best of us they can prevent us from learning new skills, growing and establishing new support networks or solving a problem. Once we stop standing in my our own way and dissolve our thoughts on giving-taking and scarcity, we will be shocked to see what we can achieve.