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Asking for Help: How to Do It the Right Way

When it comes to asking for help, women are better at giving it than receiving it. We’re so afraid of seeming weak that we’ll fake it until we make it — right into an episode of serious burnout. Let’s be honest, most of us have learned that often, asking for help also often leads to mansplaining. And nobody’s got time for that.

But if you don’t ask for help, you’re denying yourself (and others) one of the great gifts in life: collaboration.

Find out when you should ask for help, how to do it and how to survive those awkward moments of silence in the middle.

Why You Should Ask for Help

We could write several posts on the benefits of asking for help. But we’re going to keep it simple here and just give you the abridged version. Asking for help:

  • Offers the opportunity an help others
  • Shows vulnerability and helps strengthen your emotional intelligence 
  • Demonstrates your ability to recognize the strength in others

When we allow others to help us, we’re actually helping them too. The age-old adage that giving can be just as pleasurable as receiving is 100 percent accurate. Giving can show strength and generosity, while receiving can show vulnerability and emotional intelligence. In order to receive, you must be humble. If you do it well, you’ll accept help from the right people because you need it — not because you feel pity or obligation.

Asking for Help Tips

  • Start small
  • Act humble — not humiliated
  • Be clear about what you want
  • Stay flexible to change
  • Say ‘thank you’
  • Get comfortable with rejection (but don’t anticipate it!)

Asking for Coffee

We all remember too well those scenes in “Nine to Five” where female secretaries were running around, getting their bosses coffee. Yes, asking for coffee has become a demeaning task for many women. 

But what we’re talking about is asking for a coffee meeting. This means asking someone you admire to coffee. So you can pick their brain.

Start big. We’re talking like Oprah big. OK, maybe Gayle. Melinda Gates. Indra Nooyi. You get the picture.

Make a list of your top-50 coffee dream dates and start emailing your icons. Tim Ferriss has been doing it for years. Long before he ever wrote “The 4-Hour Work Week.” 

Asking for Advice

After you’ve mastered the small stuff (like inviting Sheryl Sandberg to share a latte), get humble. Asking for advice is a slightly easier task than some of the other asks on this list. 

Because people love giving advice.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or the manager of a bodega on E. 125th Street. Everyone loves giving advice.

If you haven’t already gotten your coffee date, consider asking your coffee hero advice. Or, just start small. Ask your waiter for advice on your menu choice. Ask your mom what car she thinks you should buy.

A note on asking for advice: just because you ask for it doesn’t mean you need to take it! The ask is what’s important — not necessarily the action.

Asking for Investment Money

Now that you’re a pro when it comes to asking for the small stuff, let’s get right down to the good stuff: asking for investment money.

How many times have you failed to ask for money because you just knew your elevator pitch wasn’t good enough? Or in some cases, might not even be understood by your audience (back in the day, the inventor of Vagisil needed to explain to a board of men that feminine dryness was a thing. True story).

In this case, you might want to start small so you’re not rejected by your dream investor straight out of the gate.

Getting Comfortable With Rejection

Rejection is not a four-letter word. We know freelancers who paste their rejection letters on their walls, like wallpaper of honor. Don’t think of rejection as a ‘no.’ Really, it just means, ‘not yet.’ 

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