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?
I’ve just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a simple little book that makes for quick reading and a lot of pondering and I’ll be discussing it with the members of my leadership tribe over the next few weeks.
Most interesting to me was the first chapter on how we humans are “domesticated” and taught stories, beliefs and values that become our unconscious reality as we grow into adults. Ruiz calls these the “agreements” that rule our lives. We learn to be the people that others want us to be and “live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands.” We judge ourselves and others against these expectations — often harshly — and we try to change ourselves and others to fit these expectations. Ruiz argues for rejecting those agreements that don’t serve us and replacing them with new agreements so that we can be more free, starting with the four in the book.
The Four Agreements as summarized on the book jacket are:
- Be Impeccable with Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
- Don’t Take Things Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. Ruiz argues that “there is a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally.”
- Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid, misunderstanding, sadness and drama.
- Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
I have work to do on each of these. For the short term, I’m trying to be aware of my tendency to “go into my head” and judge myself and others. I’ve been telling that voice to stop, just stop, and instead focus on being present and letting of assumptions and judgments. I’m consciously trying to write a different story in my mind when I start to take things personally or make an assumption about why someone has behaved in a certain way. And when I’m not sure, I’m asking rather than guessing or assuming. I’m hoping that with enough practice these will become new habits and new agreements for me. And maybe I’ll be a little less domesticated!
Posted in Growing, Thinking
Tagged acceptance, change, curiosity, Four Agreements, growth, leadership, Miguel Ángel Ruiz, relationships, thinking, vulnerability
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.
Worrying. Ruminating. Cogitating. Analyzing. Considering. Mulling. Noodling. Pondering. Reflecting. Scrutinizing. Contemplating. Deliberating. Speculating. Wow… we’ve thought up a lot of words for thinking!
Those of who are thinkers tend to pride ourselves on that trait. We look at things from all sides before acting. We’re careful and thoughtful. Our thinking serves us well… we think. But thinking can easily cross the line into overthinking, especially when it comes to relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
I’m aware of my tendency toward overthinking and my ability to create problems that weren’t there in the first place. I can fill in the white space of silence with a complex story of my own imagining, when the reality is often far more simple or just plain different from what my brain invented. That’s because my story comes from my own perspective on how the facts of a given situation fit together.
I can see this so clearly with people who I am coaching. They invent explanations for behavior that fit their perception of reality. They believe that others have intentionally disrespected them, undermined them, or are purposefully testing boundaries. And they have completely and utterly persuaded themselves of the certainty of their rightness through a series of conversations that have occurred completely in their heads.
Sometimes insight can be found by stepping into a different perspective on a given situation. Simply asking “could there be another explanation that is consistent with the facts that might be true here?” or “why would a reasonable and rational person do what this person is doing?” can bring about a change in our conclusions and can begin to transform a challenging relationship. Even better is when we can have the courage to get out of our own all-knowing heads and have an honest conversation about the situation with the person that is driving us crazy. By inviting them to tell their story from their perspective, we may discover new truths about ourselves.
Next time you find yourself overthinking and lost in wondering about the past or the future — “why did that happen?” or “what does it mean?” — try to let go of speculation and pull yourself into the present. What will you do today to let go of your stinkin’ thinkin’ and have the courage to step into a different perspective?