Asking for help can be daunting: We don't want to impose, and we don't want to be rejected. But new research reported in The New York Times suggests “many of us underestimate how willing — even happy! — others are to lend a helping hand.”
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science this month, included six small experiments involving more than 2,000 participants — all designed to compare the perspectives of those asking for help with the perspectives of helpers. The bottom line: Across all of the experiments, those asking for help consistently underestimated how willing friends and strangers were to assist, as well as how good the helpers felt afterward. The researchers believe those incorrect calibrations might stand in the way of people’s asking for help in ways big and small.
What is the most effective way to ask for help? Researchers are looking at that dynamic as well. Dr. Wayne Baker, a professor with the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and author of All You Have to Do Is Ask: How to Master the Most Important Skill for Success, encourages people to be deliberate about making a thoughtful request. Dr. Baker promotes what he calls the “SMART” system for asking for help. Although it was initially designed for workplace settings, he believes it is applicable across contexts. As much as possible, requests should be:
Afterward be sure to communicate your heartfelt gratitude!
When was the last time you asked for help, and how did you do it? Was help given? And what experience have you had when people asked you for help? To join the conversation, click "comments" above. We would like to hear about your experiences.
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