Small business owners face new challenges every day. Sometimes, it would be great to ask for help from someone. But small business owners are reluctant to reach out for help when they need it. In a recent NYTimes.com article, “How to Ask for Help and Actually Get It,” Smarter Living editor Tim Herrera provided this advice about asking for help: “People want to help you. You just have to ask. All of us need help from time to time, and the ability to ask is a learnable skill…that can have a monumental impact on our goals and lives.”
- A 2008 study from Cornell found that subjects “underestimated by as much as 50 percent the likelihood that others would agree to a direct request for help.”
- Organizational psychologist Adam Grant says that asking for help on specific problems can be better than cultivating a mentor. Likewise, we’ve advised that situational mentors are better than generalists.
Four crucial steps to getting the help you need
According to Heidi Grant (no relation to Adam), a social psychologist and author of the book “Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You,” here are four crucial steps to getting the help you need.
1. Make sure the person you want to ask realizes you need help
Due to a phenomenon called inattentional blindness, humans are limited in our ability to take in and process information. So we often ignore or misinterpret what others are saying. So when asking for help, be explicit in making sure that’s the message they are receiving.
2. Make clear that the person you want to ask understands your desire for help
A similar phenomenon called audience inhibition (or, “looking foolish in front of other people”) can prevent people from offering help because they doubt their own intuition that you need help. Be explicit in letting them know you are asking for help.
3. Be specific with your request
Make sure your helper knows precisely why you are asking her for help, and not someone else. According to Grant, this will make them feel invested in your success — rather than feeling obligated to help.
4. Make sure the person you’re asking has the time and resources to help
We’re all busy. However, you probably should not ask for help from who is overwhelmed with work or other obligations.