When you want help with something, how do you ask for it? What word choices do you use? Do you tend to be overly apologetic and “explany” about it, i.e. “Sorry to bother you, but….I know you’re busy, but….Usually I don’t need help, but….” Or, are you righteous about your request: “I need you to help me right now!” Haha–me to my teens ; )
What is your body language like when you ask for help? Do you avoid eye contact or curl your shoulders and torso inward? Or do you stand tall and smile confidently when you make a request? What are the stories going on inside your head? Do you hear “That’s weakness” or “I don’t want people to see me vulnerable” or “I would rather die than ask for help!”?
So how do you make an effective and authentic request? First, connect inward to identify the “what” it is you really want and need. Spend time to get clear about it; ask yourself what it is specifically that you could use help or support with. Allow yourself freedom to fully explore this without all the “yeah, buts” and excuses. Second, as you’re getting clear on the what, tune into how you’re feeling in your body during that discovery. What sensations and emotions come up? Relief – anxiety – fear – compassion? And where do you feel it? Chest – belly – head – heart? Notice it. Feel it. Own it. Have a conversation with yourself: are my reactions to these emotions serving me? Are they propelling me forward or holding me back? How does this affect my connection to and awareness of my own self-worth and dignity? Don’t judge or shame yourself, just observe what comes up.
Third, now that you know what would be most helpful to you, you’re connected and embodied, you are ready to ask! You know it might be uncomfortable to request help–whether it is a new pattern of behavior, or an old familiar one. Habits are hard to change, but it can be done more readily with awareness and practice. As Bri Flynn Witthuhn writes in her Forbes’ article The Neuroscience Behind Habit Change, “The brain hardwires everything that we repeatedly do – this is how habits are formed. So the stories we tell ourselves over and over become default paths, the circuitry the brain naturally activates.” So we need to replace the negative messaging in our heads with positivity in order to form new habits.
Nonetheless, it can be hard and scary to be vulnerable and ask for help. And what are the rewards to stretch beyond that edge? Asking for help is a form of self-compassion. Research has shown many benefits from investing in self-compassion activities: reduced stress to stronger immune functioning and greater happiness, and also that it can make us a better leader. As written in the HBR article by Rich Fernandez and Steph Stern, Self-Compassion Will Make You a Better Leader, “Based on our experience training tens of thousands of leaders on the role of self-compassion in emotional intelligence and effective leadership…. What’s needed in times of uncertainty and disruption is mental clarity, emotional balance, fortitude, and vision. To move from self-doubt and paralysis to clarity and action, you need an often-misunderstood skill: self-compassion.” Another HBR article discusses the importance of compassion in leadership, as “it improves collaboration, raises levels of trust, and enhances loyalty. In addition, studies find that compassionate leaders are perceived as stronger and more competent.”I have been asking for a lot of help to launch my business, and the returns are so plentiful! First, I took care of my own wellbeing through Tuning LIfe Counsel sessions with Kalpana Devi, for grounding, confidence, and connection to my higher knowing. Then, I invested in financial planning with The Davis Financial Group for my own education and empowerment. I hired Chikmedia to run a media launch for JKirley Collective, recognizing my limitations and asking for help on a project I knew I didn’t have the skillset or desire for. I also got myself a wonderful business advisor (even though I am one, I still wanted that guidance for myself!) through the Center for Women & Enterprise. This ask then led me to applying and receiving my first business loan through Common Capital, an amazing nonprofit community development financial institution. The list goes on, and you get the idea. As a new Solopreneur, part-time worker, a mother of 3 teens, and head of household, I know I can’t do it all, ANDI am still enough! I have many great skills, and yet there are limitations to them that could hold me back if I tried to do everything myself–especially as a new business owner. By getting all this help and support, it’s like I’ve covered myself in bubble wrap and can launch off down the hill, rolling along, gaining momentum towards success, and without as many bumps and bruises. Because, in the end, I keep discovering again and again that it is worth asking. And be ready for the rewards!