Asking TO Help Instead of Only Asking FOR Help (and Why It Matters)

Recently, a friend told me a story about the unexpected joy she received one day while she was out running errands. She wanted to stay anonymous, so we will call her Charity.

One afternoon at work, Charity left the office to take care of some shopping for work. It was a lovely day, and she was in a good mood. While waiting to cross the street, she saw an older gentleman veeerrrrryy slowly and veeeeerrrry carefully stepping down off the curb. He was clearly having trouble walking, so she smiled at him for encouragement.

That smile acted like an open door

Immediately after she smiled, he asked her to help him down off the curb, and then asked where a certain store was. Charity ended up holding his arm and walking him all the way to the store down the street. The whole time, he chatted away happily about the old days in his family – businesses they owned, etc. While it seemed to her that not all of this made sense, she could tell he was thrilled to talk to someone. So, she engaged in the conversation, listening and responding as best she could. After she dropped him off at the store, she headed back to her office. She told me she was basically walking on sunshine the whole way back. She felt light and joyful and grateful for the opportunity to connect with this human.

What if we asked TO help instead of FOR help all the time?

Her story got me thinking about how having the small courage to smile at a stranger led to a better day for both of them. Her smile was the encouragement he needed to ask for assistance, and also some company. Sometimes it’s easier to start with a small gesture than come right out with, “Hey, do you need help?”

Ever feel like asking to help someone might hurt their pride accidentally? Ever feel unsure if they even need or want help at all? I realized that a smile or other simple act can open the door to being helpful without forcing them to respond to an offer.  In fact, the smile gave both Charity and the stranger the open heart to give and ask for help, both of which take courage.

How can we bring this attitude of asking to help into our teams and workplace?

It’s possible to accidentally come off as condescending when you ask a teammate if they need help, depending on your relationship with them. Here are a couple of ways we can build asking to help into our work routines:

  1. Smile. Just like the story, a smile, wave, or hello can create the opportunity to ask for help that someone was looking for but felt awkward initiating. When you act friendly, others will feel more comfortable coming to you.
  2. Check in regularly with teammates. At Swift Kick, we have sections in our daily, weekly, and one-on-one meetings when we know we can bring up questions and concerns. We are all in the habit of expecting to help and be helped every day.
  3. Make time for outside-the-office connections. – Who are you more likely to ask a favor of – a good friend or a work acquaintance? Obviously, we all feel more comfortable with friends. Nurturing those friendships with your coworkers allows you to collaborate better during work hours. Celebrate happy hour, grab dinner, or go out for lunch.

If you are worried that all this helping out might cut into your own work, stop right there. Assisting others will make you feel happier, create better relationships, and gives you more connections for when YOU need help in the future. The bottom line is, better-connected teams do better work. And what better way to connect than to help each other out?

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