Asking for Helping Yourself

Asking for Helping Yourself

What a concept!  How effective are you, when asking for help? Do you get what you want, when you ask for it? Or, are you often frustrated with how hard you need to work, in order to get valuable answers to your technical questions? I know exactly how that feels, as I have worked through quite a few difficult cases of acquiring technical insights, which were essential to meeting commitments that I had made. Fortunately, reflection on these stressful exchanges revealed an opportunity for improving my experience, in a very surprising place: myself

What!?! It can’t be me!

No way!!!  The other person doesn't seem to want to help me!”  “ I am perfect (and humble, just ask me….LOL)!”  Perhaps nobody else has done this, but at times in my career, I have been unwilling (or too slow) to consider the influence that my approach (and behaviors) has on these important discussions.  As a result, many of these discussions took longer than necessary, they consumed more resources than were necessary and they created residual strain on important relationships. 

A better way   

Through careful evaluation of my experience and by observing people that I respect, I learned that I have a lot more influence over this process than I would have ever imagined.  Even better, I learned that the changes that I needed to make, in order to leverage my new-found insight, were fairly simple and added value to other parts of my work life.  Even better still, I found that these small changes produced very significant improvements in the outcomes of each engagement.  Answers came quicker, they took less effort and these important relationships were actually strengthened through the process.  There is nothing like developing trust, credibility and mutual respect…with people that you admire and respect!


So, what was it?

In essence, I learned that the quality of support that I receive from someone else is often going to depend on the quality of effort that I invest in helping myself, before I ask for that help!   Within that context, the “investment” refers to doing whatever is necessary to help the other person understand your problem, your desired outcome and all of the relevant circumstances that relate to your current situation. 

Before asking others, I ask myself.... 

  • What I am trying to accomplish?
  • How am I approaching this goal?
  • Why am I approaching it this way?
  • What do I expect to be observing?
  • Why do I expect this?
  • What am I currently observing?
  • If I was being asked to help with this, what information would I want to have access to?

My Personal Challenge

Fortunately, I work for someone that I respect, so I like ask myself the following question, as I prepare to ask for help:

“If my boss was on the other side of the world and could only use my initial request to understand my problem, what information would I include in that request?”

Some cool quotes

  • A poorly defined problem has no solution
  • A well-defined problem is nearly solved
  • Many fail to prepare, so in essence, they are preparing to fail!


How well do I do at this?  Not as good as I can, but most certainly better than I used to prepare, when I had to ask for help! My encouragement to you is that when you spend time time thinking about the other person in a conversation, you are preparing for a successful are Asking for Helping Yourself

  • Very well said Nevadamark! 

    There are times in my life experience where I was asking for help from someone because I was not confident in my skills. So at times it comes down to believing in yourself that you can solve the problem! 

    Your list of what to do before asking others is also a study on the old technique of explaining the problem to someone else. The old rubber-duck  approach. ( explain it to a rubber duck ). By putting together an explanation and trying to explain it to someone else you often come to the solution. Shoot, I have done that answering posts where I did not know the exact answer but by starting to write the post the solution would come to me. 

    Well written and I hope your post is seen by many others. 

    Dave T

  • Thank you! That means a lot coming from you! We sure appreciate all of your contributions to this forum! 

  •      Truly useful, and wonderfully told!  Although "there are no wrong questions," a well-thought-out one is more likely to lead directly to the desired result.  We see this demonstrated daily on EngineerZone, where answers would come easier if only the question had included some vital information.  Where the sphere of knowledge surrounding the question meets with the helper's expertise is where an intelligent answer grows.