Tag Archives: communication

Asking for Help

In my leadership program we’ve all been given the challenge of asking for help in the two months between retreats — to stretch out of our comfort zones and ask for assistance in situations where we might not normally be inclined to do that. And also to notice how we feel about asking for help as we do this.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that I’m terrible at asking for help. Interestingly, so are many of the other people in the class.  And the reasons are all strikingly similar…

We are having trouble asking for help because we don’t want to seem weak or vulnerable. We have pride in our competence, we don’t want to admit that we might need help.  We’ve been taught to be independent and that there is shame in being needy.  We don’t want to be a bother to others or we believe ourselves unworthy of being helped by others.  We don’t want to take their valuable time or think we might be asking for too much. We may worry about rejection. We hire help, but we often won’t ask for it from the people closest to us. And sometimes we just don’t know what to ask for.

A 2008 study found that people routinely underestimate by 50% others’ willingness to help them.  In short, people are more likely to say yes to requests for assistance than we think they are.

I’m trying to remember that asking for help can be good for me and for the person I’m asking.  Asking for help creates connections and broadens possibilities.  I might learn something completely new or experience a new perspective. And asking for help gets easier with practice.

I’d welcome your thoughts on asking for help… it is easy or hard for you and why? Do you have any good resources on asking for help?


An Invitation to Re-examine ‘Busy’


I read a thought-provoking post on the subject of busyness recently that got me reflecting about this subject a bit.

Everyone seems to be “busy” lately. In fact, it seems to have become the “go to” answer to the perennial question “how are you?”  “Busy,” we say, to anyone that will listen. We’re really, really, busy — crazy busy in fact. We’ve got lists, demands, obligations, expectations and we’re never done with them. We’re important because we’re busy. And we’re needed. We’re so busy that we’re stressed and tired and never have enough hours in the day to get everything done.

I don’t know that many of us have thought about the impact of this one word on ourselves and on others. In addition to projecting self-importance, “busy” accomplishes a number of things. “Busy” sets up a wall between people that’s hard to get past. When someone tells you they are “busy” it sends the message not so subtly “don’t ask me for anything” or “don’t make any demands on me.”  “Busy” keeps friends and colleagues at arm’s length and says “I really can’t be here for you right now.”  It minimizes the opportunity for connection. “Busy” is also a bit dismissive and vague. How different would it be to say,”I’m great and I’m working on some really interesting projects right now.”  That’s a conversation starter — whereas “busy” tends to block further inquiry.

To be sure, every one of us has times when we’re trying to finish a project or meet a critical deadline and we’re legitimately flat out. But you know what?  With all of the busyness, each and every one of us finds the time for what is most important in our lives.

I have a lot of projects and priorities. I have lists of my own that I will never finish. But I don’t want to be that person that’s too busy to take the time to really connect or to pause for the things that matter.

I invite you to join me in consciously letting go of “busy” as a lifestyle choice.


A Failure to Communicate

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw

For some cosmic coincidence, communication issues have been the dominant theme at work recently.  It’s been a good reminder that communication is not necessary what is said, but what is actually heard.   I’ve noticed a few common categories of communication challenges lately:

  • Things that should have been said but weren’t — a complete failure to tell someone who should have known about something.  They forgot… they didn’t realize… they assumed someone knew.  But for whatever reason, they didn’t speak up.
  • Things that were unknowingly said to the wrong person and never communicated to the right person — In these cases, the communication about the issue occurred, but never reached the most appropriate recipient, who remained completely ignorant about the issue.
  • Things that were actually said but not fully heard by the recipient, or not said firmly enough to make an impression — in these situations the information was shared, but the communication wasn’t completely effective.

The details aren’t important, but the end result in all of these cases was the same. Someone who thought they should have known about something didn’t.  And in each case, that “someone” thought they had been wronged or aggrieved — and perhaps disrespected — in the failure to communicate.

I think there are lessons on both sides —

1. Make sure your message has actually reached the right recipient.  If you’re not sure, seek confirmation.  “Is there anyone else that needs to know about this?” or “I just wanted to make sure you got my email…”

2. Make sure you’re being clear.  Sometimes when we’re in uncomfortable message territory or fearful of conflict we may “soften” our messages, and the result is that we aren’t clear about what we’re saying.  When in doubt, check for understanding with the recipient! “I just want to make sure that you understand that you need to be at work by 9 am everyday unless you’ve let me know in advance…”

3. Assume good intent.  You didn’t know about something that you should have known about?  Perhaps there’s a logical explanation for what happened.   Don’t assume that you have the full story until you’ve taken the time to talk it through.  Be curious not judgmental.

We’re all in the communication business.  I’m always struck by how two people can see or hear the same thing and have completely different impressions of what has just happened.  That’s because we all filter our day-to-day experiences through different lenses.   Don’t let your filters create communication illusions!