None of us is capable of doing everything we need/want to do in the world alone. Part of being alive is about giving and receiving help. But asking for help can feel so awkward. So how can we do it with elegance?
I think it’s about recognizing your own humanity and talents and the other person’s humanity and talents. For example, let’s say George is anxious about marketing his new Substack newsletter. He knows someone who’s amazing. He sends her an email: “Rebecca, you are such a great marketing strategist. I’ve got really strong content but I feel so stuck about how to find an audience for it. I’d be thrilled if you’d spend 30 minutes brainstorming with me. And I’d be even more thrilled to help you with something you need. Do you have any time on Thursday?”
George acknowledged Rebecca’s expertise. He expressed his own skills gap/need for help. He was clear about the request – just 30 minutes. And he made an open-ended offer of help.
Sometimes, you need to satisfy someone’s self-interest to get them to help. Marcus at WidgetCo wanted to get Emily, the PR director and a masterful communicator, to help shy but brilliant Clara prepare for a big presentation. Here’s how he did it:
Clara wobbled out of Monica’s office, taking shallow breaths. “Emily will help,” said Marcus. “Let’s Slack her now.”
Twenty minutes later Emily from PR walked into the break room where Clara was still trying to slow her heart beat. “What are we, the Three Musketeers now?”
“Well, you need a clear story to tell externally and we need help getting that story sold internally, so I think we have a pretty great alignment,” said Marcus. “Coffee?”
“Red Bull,” said Emily. “Lemme see the deck. And breathe, Clara. We can get you through this.”
Marcus knew what Emily needed and pointed out that she’d be creating it by helping Clara. AND he offered to get her some essential caffeine.
Whole books have been written about asking, but at the very least, standing in your dignity and recognizing the other person’s dignity is a great place to start.
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