How to ask for help

A friend of mine is learning to ask for help.

He’s a smart guy. He’s been successful in the corporate world, and before that he was successful in school.

And that might be part of his difficulty. We are taught that asking for help is a *bad thing.* Asking for help is a sign of weakness or incompetence. Asking for help means you haven’t been able to figure it out on your own. Asking for help = admitting failure.

So I came up with some ways for my friend to ask for help that invite another point of view without admitting failure:

Can you walk through the alternatives with me? I want to be sure I’ve covered the important points.

I need another option for this problem. Will you explore the situation with me and give me your opinion?

I want to check out my thinking on this. Will you play devils advocate?

I’m a little stuck on this. Will generate some additional options with me?

Can you point me to some resources [related to this one thing]?

I haven’t done this before. Will you walk through my thinking with me?

How do you ask for help?

Paul Leclerc sent this answer via email:

“By being humble enough to ask for it. The other day, I asked our resident Java guru a very simple, very basic question. It was something ‘any Java programmer should know’. I told him I had a stupid Java question and just asked. I expected to be laughed at but he was actually quite humble himself and answered without making me feel stupid. Now I know how to ask for help. Just ask.”