How do I ask? And what do I say if they say “no” or” I don’t have time”? Do I slink into a corner and wish I’d never reached out and taken a risk?

Absolutely not! Instead think of me as your coach for the next page or so and let me take you through the ideas and steps behind being successful in asking for help.

Why haven’t you asked in the past? Maybe you did and felt rejected so you didn’t chance it again. Or maybe you haven’t asked because you don’t want to “owe” someone. After all, if you’re asking for help to save time, how much time will you use helping the other person? That just doesn’t make sense, does it?

Maybe you were brought up with the notion that asking for help is a weakness and that’s the last thing you want to project. I suggest that before we go one step further, you revisit that. Does it take courage to ask? Putting yourself on the line? Facing the possibility of feeling rejected? I don’t see a thing about that that’s weak! Quite the contrary! I’d say it’s a strength! So, let’s check that one off and move on.

How do you ask? You have your own unique style and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so I’ll offer some suggestions for you to adapt.

The principle here is to involve the other person in the plan of helping you. That way you don’t lose so much control and “people support what they help create.”

•Would there be a good time for you to show me how you did that with Excel? I would really appreciate it.
•Would it be possible for you to educate me about ………
•Could we get together some time in the next couple of days and…………


State the need you have and then include them in the planning:

•The meeting is a week away and it’s apparent that I won’t be able to complete this by myself. Would you be willing to find a time in the next two evenings to work on this with me?
•I’m to poll the group and report the results at our next class. Because of other assignments, there just isn’t enough time. Could you help me out and let me pay you back by ………

What if you get a “no” when you ask? Perhaps that individual is drowning in work as well. How about going out on a limb and asking if you can help them? Sure, you still have to find some help for yourself, but by helping this person, you may be building a relationship so that they drop everything the next time to help you.
This is a give and take economy. Networkers call it reciprocity. So another way to build “help-capital” is to help others first. If you have these IOU’s around, help becomes a non-issue.

And what about the issue of “owing someone?” If you practice thinking in a "help mode", then everyone you meet, every article you read, every solution you come across will trigger someone that would be helped by being introduced to that person you met, that article you read or that solution that would solve a problem for them.

And one fine day, you’ll awake to a brand new way of thinking – that helping each other not only makes light work, but it enables you to build relationships, increases your morale, makes you feel like you’re not in this alone and that you’re part of the club. It’s called interdependence.

Author's Bio: 

Peggy Collins is a professional speaker and trainer and the author of Help Is Not a Four-Letter Word: Why Doing It All Is Doing You In, published by McGraw Hill. Peggy can be contacted at