I'm Ben Gruber

2013 / 17 October

Don’t Assume – Ask Direclty for It


Go on, ask for it. Let people know specifically how you want them to help you. And they will. This is a lesson that I recently learned.

In the past few weeks, on multiple occasions  I was looking for the help of others and did not end up receiving it (help with my startups). That was particularly disturbing to me, because I  am constantly helping others – not so that they will directly help me – but because I really enjoy it and think it is important. Instead of getting mad, I turned it on myself and asked, “What is it about what I said or the way I said it, that caused them not to do the same for me?”

Then I turned to my friend – the ‘culprit’ – and asked the same question. After explaining that I wasn’t mad at him, but rather looking to improve my communication skills, he came back with some incredibly helpful information.

I will spare you the details, but the underlying comment that I got back was that he did not even know I wanted helpAnd even if he did, he would not have known what specifically he could do to help. After reviewing our emails and thinking about our conversations, I came to the conclusion that he was right. I sort of just threw a link in an email and said “check it out.” Then I made some funny unrelated remarks and it ended.

In my mind, that meant help me with what you can. I didn’t want to ask for anything in particular because that would feel like I was demanding it of him and I truly only wanted him to help if he wanted to. In the same regard, I mixed the request with unrelated jokes to soften the request and show I appreciated him either way.

What it really did was confuse things. Like I said, it turns out he really did want to help, but my email did not make it clear that I wanted him to. He explained to me that if I had asked him for help with something in particular, he would have taken it as an honor that I wanted his help and would have executed the request immediately with pride. Boy, I had that wrong.

Then I remembered something that has subconsciously stuck with me for the last year or so. During the 2012 presidential election, a couple of TV political analyst were dissecting the two candidates speeches. And at the end of both their speeches, both candidates explicitly asked for the American people’s vote – “…And that is why I am asking for your vote in next week’s election.” The analyst commented on how well both asked for the viewers vote.

Nicely and explicitly asking people for help. Who would have thought that works? I guess I should have, since that is what I just did to get the feedback from my friend on my communicating. Lesson learned!

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