27 May 2014

Now Is My Time #21: Learning To Ask For Help

As part of Now Is My Time 2014 there is a lot of self-exploration going on. One of the aspects of myself I have been pondering is my unwillingness to ask for help. I'm not sure if it is more because I don't want to put people out or if I don't want to look like I can't keep my stuff together. There's clearly more to discover there. I think sometimes I'm just afraid to feel stupid if I do ask and they can't or are unwilling to help. (Let's be serious though, how many times do people say "No I won't help you" in response to a sincere plea???) I had an experience that I wanted to share with you that taught me a great lesson about asking people for help.

I had been talking with my coach about this issue and specifically one time when I really blew it by not asking for help, even when someone very important was offering it to me, which meant he was going to help me get where I needed to go. But I was too embarrassed to go talk to him, so I didn't do it. Needless to say I am still in some respects paying for that dumb decision.

So after having talked briefly about this with Coach, I was working on a project where I knew it would be very helpful to contact some people "in the know" and get some help to move some paperwork forward with an opportunity I was interested in.

I knew right off the bat that there were people who could easily advise me on how to accomplish my goal. Despite my hesitation I reached out to one of them. She got back to me immediately and we missed our first pass at contact playing phone tag. I knew she was very busy and when I didn't hear back from her again, I wasn't upset in the least.

A day later my sister ended up at the same event as another person who could help me. So I asked her to mention my situation to this other person. My second helper immediately had my sister text me her contact info and asked me to call her in the morning. I was grateful, made a note of her contact info on my desk and then let a day go by.

By now I had finished all the needed paperwork and felt I had covered all my bases. I started to talk myself out of following up with her. I had everything done, there probably wasn't that much she could do for me at this point. So I very subtly started talking myself out of calling her, using very likely the same techniques I've been using for a lifetime.

I didn't want to bother her, she didn't really know me that well, maybe there wasn't really anything she could do, etc. I had also heard it might be too late for me to seek this opportunity I looking at, so there wasn't much point to doing anything more than just getting things in, just in case.

On the second day I had her contact information I sat staring at it on my desk and I remembered the conversation I'd had with my coach and how bad I was about asking for help. Right that moment I decided I was going to do it because I needed the experience, no matter what happened on the other end. I had to push myself through this silliness about not asking or receiving help even when offered.

So I practiced what I was going to say, hoping I could just leave a voicemail...because of course, again I didn't want to bother her by making her actually talk to me. (Seriously, what is wrong with me, haha. I'm so embarrassed at how dumb I can be sometimes. You'll overlook this won't you and still keep reading?)

She picked up right away and when I told her who it was she lit up. We talked for just a few short minutes and in that time she gave me an action plan of all that she was going to do for me including making a call to someone who would know all the details I needed. Super nice and way more than I ever expected.

Her response had "I'm so happy to help and so glad you called!" written all over it. Less than an hour later she was already back to me with follow up information to a contact who could take me to the next level. Wow!

When I contacted Helper #3, I didn't expect to hear much back for a day or two but before the end of the business day I already had a follow up from her in my inbox. The story of asking for help gets even better here. This woman I have never met, who doesn't know me at all went WAY beyond the call of duty and moved a couple small mountains for me and got me through doors that were already closed.

Neither of us knew if it would do any good but it was movement nonetheless. She apologized that there wasn't more she could do for me, but I was just beyond grateful at what big things she had done for me. Blown away.

That night I mailed a thank you card to both these women, knowing that the opportunity probably would not happen, but boy, did I learn a lesson about asking for help and how willing people are to help if you just have the courage to ask. Spurred on my these empowering lessons, I'm trying to do a lot better as asking for help and definitely will continue to remind myself of the regret I've felt when I haven't asked and of how very willing people have been to help if I would just ask.

Having such a successful experience has definitely encouraged me to keep pushing for my goals, but now with the understanding of how many people there are out there who are genuinely willing to help.

image via MCA

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