“I don’t want to bother you, but…” This is a phrase that many of us use when we’re in need of help and have exhausted our own means. I’m not talking about “I don’t want to bother you, but I want to sell you something.” I’m talking about when we need real help. We’re stuck. A problem has presented itself that requires more than one person or team. We’re not sure where else to go, and we admit that our own efforts, resources, talents or abilities have reached, if not an end, at least a roadblock, and we need help.
But none of us likes to ask for help. I’m there as well, but I’m learning to change that. To not see asking for help as a weakness or deficiency, but as a way to learn from others, and to offer others a chance to be part of something that utilizes who they are.
Be honest: are you a person who would gladly help someone else out, but are nearly paralyzed with the prospect of asking for help yourself? Next to learning how to take a compliment (smile, say thank you, and let someone give you props without you downplaying it), asking for help may be the toughest thing that many people ever do. But the thing is, I think most people are happy to lend their time, expertise, insight, passion and general goodwill when asked. In fact, I think most of us, in some deeper way, want to be asked. We want to be of help, to contribute, to serve, to make use of who we are, what we know and what we can do.
I’ve run across this recently when I felt backed into a corner and started by trusting a few close, long time friends with the problem I was having. I felt like they’d get it, despite my reticence and even embarrassment in asking. And of course, as I should have predicted (and as my wife did – another lesson for another post), not only did I receive help, I received insight, wisdom, encouragement and even thanks from someone who was in a similar position. I’ve seen people line up to help a family affected by medical issues and in need of round-the-clock care. I’m talking about people coming out of the woodwork not just to help and do a good deed, but to be a part of something, to bring their selves into a situation.
I’ve made a conscious effort to watch for times when I say or write the words, “I don’t want to bother you,” and ask if whether I really mean that or not. Would I be bothered by that sort of request? If not, then it’s time to hit delete. If so, why? I’d encourage you to go ahead and take the risk and discover just how much you’re not bothering someone, but inviting them.