I used to feel extremely humiliated when I have to ask for help. What’s worse was when I had to reach over to my (secret) arch-enemy in 9th grade Algebra Trigonometry class to ask him for help. Oh! The humiliation! He was always happy to help me, but it was because of my inflated ego that ballooned way too big, making it very, very difficult for me to be humble enough to seek for assistance. I would be extremely frustrated with myself and imagined my arch enemy sneering at me as I struggled to untangle this monstrous math equation. That’s how I lived through middle school and high school, I always had this foolish idea that I’m smarter than everyone else and no one could possibly be smart enough to be of any help to me. Boy, was I wrong! There’s that one day when I got stuck on a math problem that even I can not solve. I could not even match up to my own standards! How embarrassing was that?!
I have to admit, it was the first time I had to deflate my ego and muster what self-respect I had left to admit to myself that I didn’t understand the problem. The next step was to ask my classmate for help. Thinking back on my school days, I was just being silly. However, these experiences helped me come up with these 6 steps for how to ask effectively.
Please keep in mind that asking for help is a two-way street! Here’s how you start!
1. Identify the problem
The only way to solve a problem is to know what is the problem. If you can not pinpoint what’s the problem, then it will be difficult to find the best fitting solution. While asking your “expert,” always keep the problem in mind.
2. Acknowledge you don’t know the subject.
It sounds easy but it is not at all. When I had my inflated ego, it made me less receptive to new ideas and ignorant of the problem. My mind would find ways to deny that I don’t know about the subject and would make up things for what it’s lacking. Don’t you find yourself making up weird explanations when you can’t answer a question? Exactly. If you can catch yourself before your mind makes up excuses or explanations for you, you find out what you don’t know. As a result, you will be more open to novel ideas from others.
3. Be curious
Once you know the problem, and be open to new ideas from other people, you should definitely crank up your curiosity. Think like a kid, question things that your mind draws blank lines to which you can’t answer. Once the first few questions pop up in your mind, several more will surely follow, I promise. 😀 As your “expert” answers your questions, create different paths with the stones given to you. By doing so, your creativity will help you find the best solution to your problem.
4. Know your “expert”
Definition: “expert” – The person who may or may not have all the answers. Be nice to him/her
Hmmm, how many times have we been frustrated or confused when our teachers gave us the wrong answer or pointless answers to our questions? Many times! If you know your “expert,” you should definitely phrase your questions in a way that he or she can understand what you are asking. If the person does not understand your questions, it will be difficult to get anywhere with the information given to you. Be flexible, rephrase questions for when the questions are not clear or concise enough. I find that if the questions are not clear, I give examples and definitions to give alternative ways to help the “expert” understand my problem.
5. Be patient and grateful
Being patient with your “expert” is very important. If it takes you a while to understand your problem and phrasing your questions, it does take the person you are asking, some time to be in the same context as you. Being patient is beneficial for both people because there’s less stress between you two, therefore, he or she will likely be able to think and answer your questions precisely. Think about it, if I rudely ask you a question and I ask you to give me the answer QUICK! You may end up ignoring me! I will be even more stressed and annoyed! Don’t forget to be grateful that he or she is taking time out of his or her busy or not-so-busy schedule to help you. Regardless whether the information he or she provides is useful to you or not, always thank him or her. Don’t burn bridges by insulting him or her if your “expert” is not useful to you…yet!
6. Return the favor
Most of the time, people do not expect you to return the favor when they helped you out. However, helping the other person is a mutual relationship. Although you are not of any help to your “expert” now, later on, he or she can ask for that favor from you. I always try to return the favor as soon as possible because that way, I don’t forget, and it shows that I’m eager to help, when I can.
These six steps have helped me many times and I believe I no longer have that silly inflated ego anymore (hopefully.) I’m more humble because I can readily admit I do not know certain subjects and I’m not afraid to ask. I make sure there’s always a reason to my questions, and I try to make good use of the answers given to me. Most of the time, I guide my “expert” with my questions, this allows me to keep the goal in sight. I hope this is helpful to you!