Why You Should Ask for Help More Often (and How to Do Just That)

How often do you ask for help?

Many people – especially high-achievers – worry that asking for help is a sign of weakness. They think that they should be able to do everything alone … and keep trying to squeeze just a little bit more productivity into their day in order to manage that.

Some people also have a tendency to think that if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself.

Both of these attitudes are a mistake. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help – in fact, people who truly reach their full potential are those who are able to delegate and to rely on others. And even if someone else doesn’t perform a particular task in exactly the way you would, you might find that their method is perfectly OK too.

During a busy week or month, asking for extra help means you can focus on doing the things that you do best. After all, what’s more important: that you complete that big report, or that you file those papers piling up in the office? There’s a good chance that pretty much anyone could deal wit the papers – but you might be the only person who can finish the report.

Whether you need extra help at work, from colleagues or subordinates, or you need a hand around the house, from your partner or kids, here’s how to go about asking:

#1: Choose Your Moment Wisely

You don’t need to put off asking for help until the “perfect” time … but equally, try to avoid making a request at what’s clearly a bad moment.

If your partner has just got home after a bad day, or if your teen is having a strop, there’s no point in getting into an argument about whose turn it is to take out the trash.

Equally, if you’ve got a colleague who’s been dealing with a difficult client, it may not be the moment to ask if she’d mind fielding your phone calls so you can get some focused work done during the afternoon.

By asking for help from someone who’s in a good mood, you increase the chances of getting a happy “yes” – rather than a grudging “OK” or even a flat-out “no”.

#2: Be Clear About What You Need

If you make vague, blanket statements like “I wish I had some help round the house” then you’re not doing yourself or the people around you any favors.

They may attempt to help – but their priorities might be different from yours. They may not even realize that you’re actually asking for help, rather than just venting your feelings.

It’s much better to make a specific request:

Would you help by doing the washing-up today?

Could you sort out the laundry this afternoon?

This includes being clear about timeframes. If you want a particular task done by 5pm, let your colleague know – otherwise, they might think it’s perfectly fine for that task to wait until next week. If you want your child to tidy up their room before dinner, make that clear.

#3: Provide Resources That They’ll Need

Obviously, some tasks are straightforward, and your colleague or family member will already know how to carry them out and where to find any necessary equipment. Other tasks, though, might be new to them.

If there are specific instructions, make sure they have those. If they’ll need to use tools or equipment, make sure they know where to find them. It’s not fair to someone else to dump a task on them and leave them struggling to know how to complete it.

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of delegating, by setting aside time to train other people to take on some of your regular tasks. This may add to your workload briefly, so try to look ahead and delegate before you reach crisis point with your work.

#4: Thank Them for Helping

If you want someone to feel positive about helping you – and to do so again in the future – then make sure you remember to thank them. Even if the task wasn’t performed quite as well as you hoped, say “thanks” instead of finding fault.

For many people, a genuine “thank you” is a more motivating reward than money or another bribe. If someone’s done a big favor for you, a hand-written note can be a lovely way to say thanks (even if you’ll be thanking them face-to-face too).


Do you find it tough to ask for help? What’s stopping you? Share your thoughts and tips with us in the comments below.

 Photo credit


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.