My entrepreneur friends and I know what it is like to be so lost in a project that you realize you need help. You simply need to ask a favor of a colleague; however, it is a concept that is sometimes hard for people to grasp. Harvard Business Review published a great article titled 5 Ways to Get Better At Asking For Help that brings up a terribly relevant reality – why is asking for help considered such a sign of weakness, when it’s essential to getting things done? The article doesn’t discuss the entirety of the problem – what about asking for help when there is an absolute need for them to help you? For example, a document that really needs proofreading, since you aren’t the best at finding grammatical errors? It isn’t required for your friends, your co-workers, whomever, to help you out. So how can you politely make sure what you ask for doesn’t accidentally get pushed aside – without sounding like a jerk?
Living in the flow
I’ve been trying to adopt a mindset of accepting things as they occur, and simply existing in the moment. However, that’s not always the best recipe for driving things home and getting them done.Especially if you’re in a position where you are a manager, or even if you’re just a self-starter that really needs the help of others to get going from the start.For example, a colleague says he is going to take a look at your recent book proposal. After not hearing from him in a while, he sends you numerous apologies (time which he could perhaps have spent reading the proposal) speaking of how incredibly busy he has become. He does not say that he is unwilling to read it;just leaves you hanging as he pushes the deadline for himself further and further back.
Before, I would see two options in front of me:
a. get annoyed and get aggressive. And because of this, any follow up that I do sounds hostile and pushy, and further alienates him as he does not have to do this for me.
b. Let it go. Exist in the moment,understand that people do get busy, and just because they may have a problem with email efficiency and their workflow, in the large majority of cases, its nothing personal.
So, I try to exist within the moment, understand where they are coming from, and send back something like”No worries my friend, good luck in the projects you’re currently undertaking, and I hope that you have a spare moment sometime soon so we can catch up on what you’ve been up to!”.
However, something still haunts me. I valued their advice, and wonder if my book proposal could have taken a better direction that would give it an edge, with his advice. Should I have pushed my friend to get it to me?
Sometimes we are only able to think of actions in complete black and white, and are unable to see the ability for compromise. There are ways to encourage friends without causing their disfavor, or even being rude. Here are a few different ways of approaching it:
- Politely mention a deadline
Often people won’t get back to you on favors simply because they don’t prioritize it. They think “I’ll do it when I have the time”, and that moment never comes. All you need to do is send a simple nudge such as “Hi Brad, exciting news, I’ve decided to enter my screenplay into the Dallas Screenwriting Convention competition! The deadline is April 1st, and I’d love to be able to incorporate your notes before then.Were you able to take some notes you could send me?” Often, this allows people to shift their mind set back to your favor.If you really want to get them going, set a time for you to sit down and chat it out one-on-one. This can save time for them – they don’t need to make time to write out the perfect, eloquent email (or in this case, notes for your book).
- Offer a favor in return.
Example:”Hey, I heard about the new site! That’s so exciting! Let me know if you need any help with getting started on some SEO stuff. I’d be willing to do some pro bono since you’re already doing me a favor :)”. Harvard Business Review published another article that I feel that anyone in management should read, titled In the Company of Givers and Takers. It turns out that the employees who are Givers (aka they do favors for others) give both the very highest and the very lowest output. The difference is that those who are low output get overwhelmed by favors so much that they are unable to get enough work done. The others find balance, and find that it helps them achieve even more success than those who focus on taking from others. When you believe that you are too busy to return a favor you so clearly owe to a friend or colleague, keep it in mind that being too busy for everyone else could come back to haunt you.
- Tell them why they should prioritize it.
This often works well by just telling them why you asked them specifically for the favor– because you value their feedback. For instance, I wanted my friend to read my writing because I knew he was one of the go-to experts in the field. He shoots from the hip, and I know that while other people may be needlessly polite, he’ll tell me when something isn’t working. That’s so invaluable to creators.
Say it with me – you’re not a jerk for asking for favors. In fact, a person who is aware of their own limits and capabilities makes you more grounded – and more likely to get your goals accomplished well.There is a reason that they say the CEO’s job is to surround themselves with people who are smarter than them. There is a bad way to go about asking for favors and help, absolutely. If you’re not actively building relationships with others and doing things for them in return, you may find that you will burn bridges. Finding the delicate balance between giving and taking ensures that you find success in life.