Do you ever ask for help? I do, but not near as much as I should and I find that people rarely take me up on my offer to help, stating they don’t want to impose. Why is this? Why don’t we ask for more help? We talk regularly about the power of connection and how important it is, especially in times like today, where we are physically distancing, to remain connected. What does connect mean though?
Does connection mean only when we want to do something fun? Examples like watching a sports game together, or sharing our favorite parts in our book club, are the types of more common answers I get when I ask people how they connect. As I reflected on this, I realized that we have a lot of social norms around connection but one we don’t have as a ‘norm’ is encouragement. When I thought further on this, I realized that in the workplace there are entire businesses connected to forms of encouragement to help organizations do a better job of encouraging their employees. Some companies make it a game with points, and other companies put metrics around the process. Could these types of processes be why we look at reward and recognition as encouragement? While reward and recognition is great, and it can be in the form of encouragement, encouragement comes in all shapes and sizes, and it’s usually a lot more gritty than people care to embrace. Let’s jump back to asking for help. Are we so often afraid to ask for help because there is a sense of vulnerability with it? Are we afraid to offer encouragement because there is also a sense of vulnerability involved? Is vulnerability keeping us from encouragement, both in giving it and asking for it?
People fear judgement and for some reason, people associate asking for help or encouragement, as a form of weakness. They fear they’ll be judged. I’ve had a lot of coaching clients share over the years that the reason they don’t ask for help regularly in the workplace, is for fear they’ll be looked down on. They’ve shared they are afraid people will think they can’t do their job to the expectations needed. Where does this narrative come from? Regardless of where if comes from, how can we break through it and focus on facts versus the story we may be telling ourselves, with thoughts like judgement.
Think about when you see someone and want to help them, do you go into judgement? I doubt it. Most people see someone that needs help and our inclination is to help. We want to encourage them and help them. How do we become more consistent in asking for help, just as we so often step into helping others?Here are some pieces you can focus on to work toward feeling more comfortable asking for help and encouragement.
- Assume positive intent and withhold judgement – Instead of going into a narrative of judgement, work toward catching yourself proactively. If someone is asking if you need help, assume positive intent with them. Assume it is coming from a place of connection, versus judgement. What do we know for sure in the interaction when someone is asking to help us? We know they asked, and that’s all we know for sure in that moment. Stay with those facts and receive the help. The world starts to look a lot different when we are assuming positive intent and staying out of judgement.
- Stay away from expectations and instead be mindful of boundaries – I have no idea what people’s true expectations are of me because I can’t read people’s minds. I can ask questions to clarify. I can seek to understand. I can humbly inquire. Any expectations I came up with though, have a dose of my expectations in them mixed with the details that were provided to me. I’ve worked to ensure I’m not putting expectations on others, just as I try to listen to what is asked of me or shared with me, but I don’t put additional pieces into it. Instead, I’ve worked to create healthy boundaries. Boundaries provide a solid framework for a relationship. If I want something to change in my relationship with someone, I start with boundaries. Where are the boundaries at between this person and myself? What would I like to see change and why? If I want to see something change, I don’t put an unknown expectation on the person. I instead, talk to the person within the current boundaries. I want to help by providing feedback that is tangible and useable and I ask for the same. When a relationship has healthy boundaries, it becomes easier to have conversations sharing genuine encouragement and asking for help without vague expectations that could lead down the path of judgement versus genuineness.
- Assume that people are striving to bring their best forward – People’s best looks different from day to day. My best on March 7, 2019, looked very different than my best on March 15, 2019. On March 8, 2019, my son had a massive seizure that ended up with him having to take a life flight to a children’s hospital and spending time in a pediatric ICU. Our family’s lives changed during that timeframe and a new routine, and different types of treatment for my son occurred. I worked to bring my best when I returned to work days after my son’s hospital stay, but it looked very different than the day before he had his massive seizure and he ended up being intubated. I used to look at someone asking for help and I’m sad to say, I’d think, “I’m not helping that person, they’re clearly not giving this piece their best. I know they are capable of more, I’ve seen it!” I was judging instead of trying to help. I may have judged them doing better before, but the reality is, our best changes from day to day. Only we know if we are giving our best and what that looks like with all circumstances occurring in and around us. What do you need to work on to get to a mindset and heart that people are striving to bring their best forward? I am of the optimistic belief that when people get up each day, in their heart, they truly do want to bring their best forward. Their best may look different from our best, and are we okay with that? If not, why not?
Today, I’m thankful to say I’ve worked to grow and I’m not the person that steps into judgement, nor do I assume others are judging me when I ask for help or encouragement. Our workplace, and world in general, is such a beautiful place when people are striving to work together and encourage others. We truly are better together. So often though, people don’t ask for that help, to work together, to get encouragement when needed. It won’t change overnight, but you have an opportunity every day to go from awareness into encouragement. You get to take action. It might just be one tiny habit of calling out yourself when you are in judgement and in turn go into encouragement. You got this, if you want it! I’m always here to help. Feel free to email me at email@example.com. Know I won’t be judging, just looking to help.
Encourage courage and inspire action!