Don’t Go it Alone – Ask for Help!

6 February, 2015 (03:07) | de-stress, productivity, Saboteur, stress management, women in business, work life balance | By: lifecoach

Woman with a pile of workOne of the things I notice is how hesitant women are to ask for help. Clients share that they’re overwhelmed, yet when I ask if they’ve requested help from anyone, the answer is often ‘no.’ They say things like:  ‘I can’t ask my husband, because he won’t do it right or he’s too busy.’  or  ‘Getting an assistant means I’d have to spend a lot of time training them, and it’s quicker if I do it myself.’  In short, they’re stuck in what I call: ‘go it alone syndrome’. Sound familiar?

This is a common phenomenon, and I believe there are several reasons why women (and men too) don’t ask for help in spite of their overflowing workload.
Here are 5:

  1. We are taught to be independent. In our western culture it’s a built in message throughout our entire education. Of course we hear a lot more about teamwork and collaboration nowadays, especially in the workplace, but the underlying message remains – we should be able to handle it alone.
  2. The all too familiar Saboteur. I believe we’re influenced by what one of my mentors calls a societal ‘saboteur.’  (You know, that voice of judgment you often hear inside your head?)  Well, they’ve teamed up to remind us that it’s ‘weak’ to reach out. After all, it’s vulnerable to admit that we can’t do everything.
  3. We’re not completely clear what women’s liberation means in this decade. Yes, we’ve come a long way since the protests for women’s rights, but are we holding on so tight for fear we’ll lose what we’ve gained? I don’t believe we’ll lose anything by admitting we can’t do it all.  None of us can, at least not without serious consequences to our health and well being.
  4. Women by nature are prone to perfectionism. This according to Daniel G. Amen, M.D., author of Unleash the Power of the Female Brain. While our pre-frontal cortex (the higher, thinking brain) is larger than our male counterparts, we tend to worry more and focus too much on problems. Imagine the relief we could feel if we’d just let go a little?
  5. Leisure time is a four letter word. Recent studies show that men have more leisure time than women, and women still do more household chores as well as spending a longer time doing them. Ladies, we can take a ‘victim’ stance with this, or, we can take an honest look at what motivates us. What does ‘leisure’ time mean to you? Perhaps it feels more honorable to say you are busy all the time. Here’s my challenge question: What part of you clings so hard to the ‘I’m really busy’ mantra in order to feel worthy? 

When you are truly ready to honor yourself with more free time, here are some tips for how to ask for help:

  • Adjust your perspective. Be brutally honest here. Set aside all of your excuses for not asking, and look at what else might be going on for you. Ponder on the following: What’s really important here? What values would be honored if you asked for help?
  • Imagine relief. Think of something that if you were able to let it go would give you tremendous relief. What could you do with the extra time? Imagine it’s already happened. How would that feel? Ponder on this for at least a day. When we allow positive feelings like this, we’re engaging the creative side of our brain, and then the actions we need to take will flow naturally from there.
  • Start small. Ask your husband to do something you find easy, but he normally doesn’t do. Hint: Give him explicit instructions, and then be sure to acknowledge and praise him. Men love to know they can help as long as they understand what you want them to do, and feel appreciated in the process. The important thing is to build confidence – both by your asking, and his completion of a new task. Be willing to settle for a less than perfect outcome. When I first asked my husband to shop for groceries it was a little bumpy, but we’ve worked out the kinks. Since food shopping is not my favorite thing to do, it frees me up to get other things done!
  • Design an alliance. For more involved situations it can be helpful to do what many of us coaches do with our clients. Design an alliance with your spouse, friend or family member. Rather than giving a list of directives, you can ask for what you want, and the other person can talk about what works for them too. Discuss ways you will support each other.
  • BONUS CHALLENGE – ask for help with NO offer to help in return. The real test of your ability to ‘receive’ is asking without experiencing that twinge of guilt to give back right away. People usually love to help, and there will likely be opportunities for you to reciprocate later on. Asking in this way gives others permission to do the same. Remember, it is courageous, not weak; to ask for assistance, and practicing will make it easier.

The key is to be clear about what it is you are asking for and then stay unattached to the outcome. Resist any temptation to assume how people will respond to you or what they’ve got going on. Our brains are wired to do this, but we’re rarely accurate about what we ‘make up’. First get clear about what you want, and then you’ll be able to communicate that effectively to others. Even if at first the results are different than you expected, think about what you learned. What does asking for help free you up to do? Finally, whatever support you receive, stay in a grateful mind sight. Even if your spouse picked out squishy tomatoes, acknowledge him for his effort. Practice asking, again, and again. Then go make some spectacular spaghetti sauce.

Asking for help is a form of leadership, and I believe we are all leaders in some form or another. That’s why I’ve created a new workshop titled “Everyone’s a Leader” for managers, aspiring leaders, and parents. Get in touch with me if you are interested in having me speak to your group or company.





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