When Asking for Help, Be Direct

I love watching old George Carlin specials on HBO.  Even after all of these years, his cynical, grumpy-old-man shtick is still funny to me.  The other night, I saw an episode in which Carlin commented on how ridiculous it is when you are in mourning, or going through a hard time, and someone says, if there’s anything I can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to ask. “Sure,” says Carlin, “like they really mean that.  Like they’ll really be cool with you asking them to come over and clean your house or paint your garage.”

Carlin has a point here.  When my son was born, we had a lot of family members visit us, ostensibly to help with the baby.  But I noticed that everyone who visited had specific ideas about the best way to assist.  For example, I might have been eternally grateful if my stepmother-in-law would offer to take a feeding off my hands, but she was nervous around newborns so she wanted to do a Babies R Us run instead.

Most people sincerely want to lend a hand when their loved ones are undergoing stressful periods, but they will do it in their own way (which may not end up being helpful at all) unless explicitly told otherwise.

This goes for the office too.  If you want your colleagues or managers to assist you, you must ask, and you must be direct about exactly what you want them to do.  Sometimes people will still do what they want as opposed to what you need, but if you don’t verbalize your requirements, then you can’t complain when they aren’t met.

Tagged as , , guidance, mentoring.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. A former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a current contributor for Fortune and Metro US, Alexandra has authored several books, including the bestselling They Don't Teach Corporate in College, How'd You Score That Gig?, Success for Hire, MillennialTweet, and New Job, New You. Her book on the top myths of business success is due out from Penguin/Berkley in the fall of 2011. Since serving as a member of Business Roundtable's Springboard Project, which advised the Obama administration on current workplace issues, Alexandra produced the critically acclaimed JobSTART 101 (www.jobstart101.org), a free online course that better prepares college students and graduates for the challenges of the workplace. She is a frequent national media spokesperson and has been featured in thousands of outlets including the New York Times, USA Today, National Public Radio, ABC News, Fox News, CNBC, the Associated Press, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. In 2010, she was named Money Magazine's Online Career Expert of the Year and the author of one of Forbes' best websites for women. Known as one of the premiere spokespeople of her generation, Alexandra regularly speaks at conferences, universities, and corporations around the world including the American Society for Training and Development, Campbell's Soup, McDonalds, and Whirlpool — on issues facing modern employees such as how to communicate effectively between generations.

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