Five words that can change everything

I was at the grocery store the other day, and, being barely five feet tall, I couldn’t reach the top shelf of the refrigerated cooler. I needed that carton of half-and-half for my morning coffee (don’t judge), but what was missing was height.

So, I looked around, found a tall person, and used my magic phrase, “Will you help me please?” He laughed and looked knowingly at his short wife, then said “Sure.”   He saw my challenge and was happy to help. Two seconds later, the carton was in my hand, we all had a giggle, and were soon on our merry way.

It’s so simple – yet it’s so H.A.R.D. to ask: Will You Help Me Please?   Those five words work magic, and we can’t even get them out of our mouth.  What is up with that?

Here’ what I’ve noticed:

  • We hate to look helpless. Or worse, weak. Our western model of independence has us so conditioned to do it ourselves that any deviation from that model feels completely unnatural.   We’re afraid that being helpless makes us “less than.”
  • We’re afraid we’ll be taken advantage of. As a female, I know that entitles me to higher prices at the car dealership and for handyman services. That carries through, too, for salary in the workplace. You’re a woman: you earn less and get charged more. And then there’s another huge conversation for people of color. It’s real, folks. So, for many, asking for help feels like setting yourself up for a rip off.
  • We really do expect ourselves to be able to do it all. As a newbie to social media marketing, I need technical expertise, content creation knowledge and endless attention to post and share in the moment. Yikes. The learning is invigorating, but seriously, this is a lot to wrap your arms around in only a few short months. We expect so much of ourselves…

But here’s the deal.   People want to help. If someone asked you for a simple favor by saying, “Will you help me, please?” could you say “no?” Of course not: people love to help.  Asking is a gift.

Here is what we give them:

  • A moment to be generous. It feels really good to help, especially when it’s simple and easy. The giver is lifted and the receiver is grateful. What a great tradeoff!
  • An opportunity to shine. There are so many talented people who sit on the sideline and never have the opportunity to demonstrate their capability.   Seek their expertise (without taking advantage of them) and give them the opportunity to strut. We all win.
  • A way to engage in someone else’s success. When you help someone, you want to know how the story ends. Let them know how they made a difference. It matters.
  • A choice. They may not be available, or willing, or have the expertise you need. When you ask for help using those words, they can say “sorry, no” without losing face.

Asking for help to reach the top shelf at the grocery store is a small thing, but the impact of those words go far beyond the moment. It could the very thing that makes their day.

So, I’m curious, when have you asked for help, or had the opportunity to help someone who asked? Please share your story or comment below!


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