The rules of asking for help
I meet both kinds of people. I have probably belonged to both classes of people at different points of my life, and maybe you did, too.
The first type will never ask for help – they think it is a sign of weakness, equivalent of stooping before someone for profit. Some of them are just afraid of rejection; others find a sense of dignity in silent suffering.
There was this junior of mine in college. She was a great friend (until it lasted) – we’ll hang out after dinner and talk about our lives and dreams. She would sometimes talk about things that she is working on, and my incessant questioning will reveal some points where she could do with some help. If I ever suggested that she should seek help from someone who has already done what she is trying to do – she’d reject it outright. Why would that guy help me? He worked hard for his success – what right do I have to bypass the tough ride? Isn’t that a shortcut? Why will I go with bowed head and ask for something he can easily refuse?
There was an instance where she got into trouble with a student committee – I volunteered to offer help, and she refused. Taking help was an immoral conduct as far as she was concerned.
There is the other extreme too – people who thrive on favours and think it is their birthright that everyone will help them through everything. If they are refused the help they sought, often asked for in an improper manner – they will be shocked and feel that they have been denied something that was owed to them.
Apart from these two types of help-rejecting and help-seeking extremists, there are the people who know when, what and how of seeking help. I have come to believe that it is an essential life skill.
Morality of asking for help
Is asking for help a shortcut? It is in a way. No one can help taking that shortcut. Everyone would start in the stone age if they had to start everything from scratch. Some help is institutionalized, you get them without asking. help when you are unwell, help when you are emotionally down, help when you lost your wallet on the way or people standing up for your rights and dignity in ways you don’t not even come to know. Helping and seeking help is a way that allows us to prevent reinventing the wheel. It also allows a person who is capable of doing something very easily to do it easily, so that the time you would have wasted at it fiddling around is saved and you have the theoretical possibility of using it in a better way. Help keeps the world going – it’s the grease that keeps the wheels moving when friction could stop it. If no one would ask or give help, life would suck.
Little known things about help
It is very important to know a few things about help:
- Everyone can help – from the most successful person to someone who has been a complete failure so far.
- Most people would like to help, but the number of willing people is usually higher amongst the successful people.
- No matter how self-made a man or woman is, it is common that he or she has been helped along the way on critical junctures at some point. They remember it. They want to contribute and make a difference to others.
- Almost all human beings have a desire to touch other people’s lives in a positive way.
- Everyone wants to help if they can do so easily. The potter may help you to mend your broken dish, but if you want him to come and deliver it to your house after repairing, you are asking him to do the job of a courier. A potter is not a courier.
- People who can help you the most are the very successful ones. The powerful, the famous, the rich, the wizards. They like to help, but they are busy, and in all probability always approached for help. You need to respect their time, privacy, feelings and state of mind. You need to be crystal clear about what you want and how they can help you, and you must not waste their time at any point.
- The fact that someone is rich, powerful, famous or beautiful is not a reason to not approach them for help.
People who refuse a help that they have no reason to refuse are called assholes. People know that, and they do not think they are bad guys. Don’t give them reasons to not help, and they will feel compelled to help.
Do you want God to help you? Give mortals a chance.
No one can help you, save God himself perhaps, if:
a. you don’t know yourself what help you are looking for. Be precise and upfront about what will help you and what could ‘they’ about that.
b. You ask for help in a manner that cost of helping is too high for them. If you are asking someone for help – make it easy for them to provide the help.
c. You are trying to trick them into helping you. People help you out of generosity and positive state of mind. Rig it and you lose.
The three golden rules of seeking help. Just to recap:
1. If you know what help you need, and who can give it, then reach out and seek it.
2. Make it easy for the person to help you, as much as you can.
3. Don’t be stupid, or disrespectful (of a person and his time), or too needy. Reasonableness is the key.