“Go ahead and tell me the steps you will take to complete this assignment.”
This is the question that none of my early supervisors ever asked me on the job. And boy was I relieved that they never asked this question. Why? Because I had no clue! When I was new on the job I was afraid to ask questions or to admit what I did not know. I would run back to my cubicle and frantically search for the information I needed to complete my new assignment.
I share this story when I discuss active listening. One of the important parts of active listening is mirroring and paraphrasing and asking clarifying questions. If any of my early supervisors had asked me how I was going to do my work. They would have known I needed some assistance. If they had asked me to repeat back to them in my own words what they had just said, they would have known I was in trouble. There is another story here.
What about my responsibility? What about the fact that I could have and should have asked for help and yet I did not. Although I never seriously messed anything up, my inability to ask for help certainly cost the company time and money. Of course I could have been learning much more quickly by asking others for help too. Yet I was so convinced that if I admitted I did not know how to do something I would be in big trouble. Silly me, I let fear call the shots.
Fear of looking weak. Fear of looking ignorant or unintelligent. Fear of rejection. Fear of embarrassment and maybe even fear of sharing success. These fears are playing on our insecurities and our ego. We put ourselves through all kinds of inner conflict and turmoil because of fear. Yet we know logically, that we like it when others ask for our help. But remember, we are discussing a fear, which is an emotion and not bound by logic.
What would it look like if we forgot about the fear?
We could be role models for others, by showing leadership through reaching out for assistance. It takes more strength to be vulnerable than it does to lead by ego. We could draw others closer to us by admitting that we do not know everything. By requesting help we may become more approachable and instead of rejection, we might experience acceptance. When we are smart enough to recognize that we need help, we prove that we are not ignorant.
Still not convinced?
What if we learned something new? What if our working relationships became stronger and our network of trusted associates grew? That sounds good. Maybe some of us would stop applying self-imposed pressure to excel, mistakenly assuming that we must do so completely on our own. And just maybe we would experience less stress and more joy.
So remember, recognize when you need help and know that someone is just waiting for you to ask.