How to Ask for Help

I’m in the middle of first big fundraising campaign right now, to help me build a course for small business owners to master their websites. It’s a modest sum as these things go, but because I’m not Kevin, I know I’ll have to work harder and ask more in order to get funded.

Fortunately I’m pretty good at asking for what I need. One of the great things about having something to promote is that it’s an excuse to touch base with people you haven’t talked to in a while. I’ve gotten some great responses from long lost friends, caught up on their lives a little and even had a few lunch-date reunions and even made new friends.

And while it might be annoying for some people, others have been inspired. One friend wrote:

…receiving your email has inspired me, so thank you! I love you!!!! Because of you I am going to start pushing through the fear, feel the fear and do it anyway!

I learned about some awesome projects other people were working on and got the chance to help promote their work.

One person wrote back and asked for advice about asking for help. I felt a little under qualified to provide a useful answer. I happen to have an outgoing personality, a love of connecting with people and fairly relentless self esteem that lends itself naturally to the things I’m trying to do. I give all the credit for this to my mom, the way she raised me, and having the good fortune of watching how she carried herself in the world.

So when my friend Cicely needed a ride to the airport, I had a sudden inspiration to chat with her about asking for help during the ride. She makes me look like an amateur when it comes to letting people know exactly what she needs, and she’s lived her life in such a way that people practically fight over who’s going to get to help out.

Cicely Rogers
Cicely lays out strategies for asking for help effectively.

So without further ado, here’s our interview–with apologies for the terrible sound quality, and a transcription to make up for it.

Kronda:
This is Kronda, by the way, and it’s 3:58 a.m. in morning. I’m on the way to the airport with my friend Cicely. I got up at 3:00 a.m. and drove about twenty-five minutes and then we’re going to drive to the airport. I’ll be up for about an hour, get back home before my wife’s alarm even goes off. And I couldn’t be happier to be up at four in the morning right now taking you somewhere.

Cicely:
True friendship.

Kronda:
Yeah. Cause you’re worth it. So, my friend asked me about asking for help recently because he’s bad at it and it’s hard for a lot of people. You’re better at it than anybody that I know. Can we talk about that? How is that for you?

Cicely:
Sure. It’s hard. It’s the most difficult thing in my life. I spend a lot of time and energy talking myself into allowing myself the ability to ask for help if it begins to feel necessary.

Kronda:
Can we just tell the people why it is that you’ve been asking for more help than you’re used to?

Cicely:
Sure. I have Stage Four breast cancer and I have done for … It will be seven years in November. That’s been a trip of treatments and treatments and treatments. The last couple of years, it’s been particularly rough; last year, especially. Everybody thought I was going to die…for real, like actually.

And then I didn’t! Yeah!

Kronda
Woo!

Cicely
But I am disabled and it’s definitely an invisible disability. It is pretty low-level. I’m lucky enough to have lots of other friends who have chronic illness and are sick and/or disabled. We talk about it a lot, but I see how I have it relatively easy. That means that I can walk generally where I need to go. I can take stairs using my legs.

Kronda:
Here’s the thing, though. From my perspective and someone who watches most of this on Facebook and then pipes up when it’s time to go to the airport, it seems like you’ve got this down. It doesn’t look hard to me from the outside because you’re just like, “I need Popeyes, who’s bringing it?” And I’m like, “Me!”

Cicely:
I guess for me the allowing myself to ask for it to become necessary is really key. For that I set up particular metrics like “How will I know that it’s necessary?” I will know that it’s necessary if I want it to get done for X-amount of time and it goes undone for that amount of time. If I need something to get done in the next week, and I do everything I can to get it done in the next week, and it can’t be done, and I can’t do it, then that means it’s time to ask for help. Does that make sense?

I do very small versions of that and sometimes very big versions of that. I’m really big on trying to use empirical evidence to kind of combat the voices in my head that tell me:

    • How dare I ask for help!
    • Who do I think I am?!
    • Other people have lives. This is absurd of me.
    • I should just go without if I can’t manage on my own.
    • It’s no one else’s responsibility to make sure that my stuff gets done.

I have all these things, they’re all just… the shitty committee that is definitely in my head.

Kronda:
(laughs) I like that!

Cicely:
I work really hard to not let them run things. I set up rules and I set up measures for myself and I use empirical evidence. Right now, I’m moving, but I’m also going to New Orleans. I had planned this trip to New Orleans. I get back the 20th. My roommates will take possession of the keys on the 18th.

This is a good example of how hard I’ve been working. I’m strong. I can probably carry thirty-five, forty pounds up a flight of stairs if I had to, but I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t be doing that much. There was a time where if I could do what I would with consequences be damned.

I’ve really shifted on that. Now, I’m going to New Orleans. I don’t really need to be moving a lot of stuff anyway. I did my packing up and I’m asking friends to move me while I’m gone. I’m coordinating with soon to be former roommate, soon to be present roommates. Two different sets friend groups with trucks and taking pic … Everything is set up and staged and taking pictures, and what needs to go where.

It feels really edgy. when I thought of it, the idea felt really edgy. Asking people feels really edgy. Being as specific and particular as this needs to be to get done feels really edgy. It feels presumptuous. I’m not even here! My empirical evidence is there are people who are happy to help me move. I know it because these are not people are not liars, these are people who have told me “no” before when they couldn’t do something. Even if it doesn’t feel like it’s all right, there’s this evidence that shows that it’s all right.

Kronda:
One of the things is that our culture’s super fucked up about help. Everybody wants to be the giver of help because that’s noble and you can put that notch in your charity belts and whatever. That means somebody has to need help and that has to be okay, too.

Cicely:
I think you really hit on something. There’s a way to be the helpee. The receiver of the help is a vulnerable position and I think it also is a position potentially of starting off from a deficit or a less-than. There’s a way that someone can help you and lord it over you. They can only lord it over you because if you need help, you are already sitting down or kneeling.

Kronda:
Right.

Cicely:
Does that make sense?

Kronda:
Yeah, totally.

Cicely:
That’s a piece of it. Someone else that I have been … I’ve really been getting even more heavily into ideas and theory about emotional labor

Kronda:
Oh, yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cicely:
That’s a way that … I do a lot of emotional labor for people. That’s one of the main things that I do as far as …

Kronda:
That’s super valuable and people don’t really know it.

Cicely:
Exactly. I’m really transactional. That’s something else I guess I should mention when I talk about how I’ve set up this asking for help. I’m transactional. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Kronda:
It’s how people work. Naturally.

Cicely:
I know who to ask for what. You know what I mean? I try to pick the right people for the job and I try to … I don’t go to people who I can’t do anything for…oh it’s Southwest… (airline) or who don’t … You know what I mean?

Kronda:
Yeah.

Cicely:
That’s another piece of it. Is it all possible?

Kronda:
Right.

Cicely:
Also when asking for help, ask early rather than late.

Kronda:
Exactly.

Cicely:
The more … People are actually are happier to help when you tell them exactly where they need to go and exactly what they want to do. There’s this thing that happens where somebody wants help, and they ask for it, and then they’re so glad to have it that they don’t say how they need things to go because they’re trying to be flexible. People actually don’t like that.

This move that my friends are going to do for me, maybe about a good half of it, all my furniture, most of my kitchen stuff. This works because I do have different zones that are staged. I have pictures that they can cross reference with the person who lives there so it will be very clear what can be taken, things that needed to be marked downstairs or upstairs are marked. I’ve warned them that all my boxes don’t have tops and made sure that’s okay.
You want to be organized when you’re asking for help, too. You want to be organized so you can really just tell people what the hell you want them to do. When people are really trying to help, they want to do that.

Kronda:
They want to know …

Cicely:
They want to know. You know what you need. They don’t know what you need.

Kronda:
Right. Here we are! Southwest. Thanks for doing that. I think that’s going to help a lot of people.

Cicely:
Yay! Thank you, Kronda.

Epilogue: How You Can Help Right Now

  1. Money: Donate to help make the Websites That Work course possible and share with people who might find this helpful.
  2. Sharing: If you can’t donate, you can earn perks for referring people who sign up to be notified when the course launches. If you refer enough people you can even gain a course entry for yourself or to donate to someone else. Get your unique referral link here: http://websitesthatwork.karveldigital.com/
  3. Inspiration: If you found this interview helpful, please comment below and let me and everyone else know how it inspired you and how you’re going to ask for help as a result.

2 Comments


  1. Kronda, I briefly went through this article but I can tell you that I will be spending a considerable amount of time on your site in the future.

    I found you through your YouTube video “Building a Life with WordPress”. I listened intently to your presentation and really connected with your content.

    It’s surprising to me that there are no comments on this video as the material is deeply informative and relevant for people who are just starting out, or like me, have been in pursuit of building a life with wordpress for a while.

    In the future I may be asking for your help and insight.

    Thanks for caring enough to produce high quality content for the wordpress community. People like myself benefit from your knowledge and experience.

    Jon Coppock

    Reply

    1. Hey Jon,

      Thanks for stopping by and the lovely comment. I see you’re a fellow AIP grad and that you had my old teacher Tom Wheeler guest post for you! Small world.

      I’m still figuring out this whole business thing, but I do try to share as I go. You might like to head over to my business blog, I have lots of good stuff there too, like How I Learned to Run a Successful Web Business.

      Cheers!

      Kronda

      Reply

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