Why is it So Hard to Ask for Help?

College graduation season marks many new beginnings. In this job market, unless your college placement office delivered, you are probably looking for your new job and asking for help from people who look a lot like your parents. You’d think that asking for help only gets easier as we gain more worldly experience and learn just how important it is. But, when it comes to asking for help, this seems to get harder with more accomplishments.

Asking for help is a critical ingredient to finding the next job, starting your new business or learning something new. Help may come packaged as advice, an introduction or, if you’re lucky, a true mentor. We can all name times in our lives when help from another human being changed our course.

If we instinctively know that it takes help from others to accomplish our goals, why is it so hard to do?  I hear “I hate to bother people”, “I hate looking like I can’t do it myself” or “I feel like I’m putting people on the spot.” An expert would probably say those are different ways of describing fear of _____ fill in the blank.

We live in a culture where being self reliant and totally together are revered.  This is our badge of courage. Yet, in her famous TED Talk, Brene Brown artfully explains that vulnerability is the key to connection with others and meaningful relationships. It is also a key ingredient of self confidence.

When I hear a new job seeker or business owner finding reasons not to ask for help, I ask them how they felt when asked for help by others. Invariably, the answers are “I was happy to help”,  “It wasn’t a big deal” or “I was flattered.” But,  sitting on the other side of the desk and asking is much harder to do.

If your fear of asking for help is holding you back from moving forward – on whatever your path my be – put yourself out there. Yes, you may get some indifference, meet people who can’t help, or even worse, face rejection. Don’t take it personally and you’ll find that most people will help you if they can. And, be ready to return the favor and pay it forward to help someone else when it’s your turn to sit on the other side of the desk.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults and can be followed @PattiBJohnson or her company @People_Results.