Do You ASK Better Than You RECEIVE?

Written by Posted On Thursday, 24 August 2023 00:00

When you need help, have you ever heard yourself saying…

• I don’t want to appear needy or weak
• I’ll just do it myself because it won’t be done right, and I don’t want to bother anyone
• If I ask for help, they will think I’m incapable

Why is it that women don’t want to ASK, or better yet, allow receiving help? 

It is a loaded question with a ton of varied responses. When I conducted an informal survey through my Women’s Wisdom Network, women stepped up and admitted in general that they sucked at both.

In almost all cases, the accepting help beat out the ASKING for help by almost fifty percent.  We aren’t good at asking and that made me think…why?

In my own life, I’ve been taught to buckle up, figure it out, do it myself, and move on.  It stems from women needing to appear independent, strong, capable, and oh, yes, my favorite, avoiding the judgement from others.  

In a terrific article from, author Galina Singer states that “Being perceived as weak is one of our greatest fears… We live in a society that is based on perfectionism and shaming” and to me that says a lot!  This line of thinking is paramount to why we defer asking for help, but other studies show we might be missing the boat.

If you study leadership in today’s world, collaboration is key.  Geoff Colvin in his book, “Humans Are Underrated” consistently points out that it is the HUMAN connection, the collaboration of energy, perspective, insights, experience, and that precious life force that we have (that computers don’t at this writing) that helps us evolve, thrive and survive, be more creative, solution driven, and are measured by more wins than losses. 

In a world that is loaded with billions of bits of information, data and content, it is clear that one of us cannot be as smart, talented, etc. as all of us.  We each bring this brilliantly distinctive piece to the puzzle forged by our own unique DNA, path and experiences. Why then, do we still resist asking for help?

If we shift our context of ASKING from weakness to opportunity, how would that profoundly change our mindset about asking?  Think about it, we don’t mind asking a doctor, mechanic or a plumber for their help. Why is it that when it comes to something, we don’t have the expertise or experience to do, that we avoid asking for help?

Forbes posted an article on this subject with facts that prove the contrary quoting a study by the O.C. Tanner Institute.  Authors Sturt and Nordstrom posted: “The Great Work Study, conducted by the O.C. Tanner Institute, showed that 72% of people who receive awards for their work ask for advice, help, insights, and opinions from people outside of their inner circle. In doing so, those workers generate fresh ideas and perspectives on how to solve problems that they otherwise wouldn’t have imagined. In essence, asking for help and advice creates better, stronger, more successful results than not asking for help.”

Although not directed specifically to women only, it makes a great point about collaboration, and when conducted in a “safe” place, the results are the focus, not the judgement. 

Now accepting help (or anything for that matter) is another whole issue!  In some cultures, when you “accept”, you now “owe” (Remember the scene in the movie, “The Godfather”?)   In his best-selling book, “Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini, one of the six principles of persuasion in “reciprocity”.  If I give to you, you may feel more compelled to give to me.  For some of us, accepting help is as hard or harder than asking for help, especially if there are cultural differences that impact the ability to accept. We might be concerned about how to reciprocate, what to do to return the favor or worse, anticipate we are not adequate enough to be of a return value. We think, “What do I owe you if you ’help’ me?”   

The reasons we find it difficult to accept is varied.  If you have had to survive working hard, your independence mindset doesn’t make room for allowing support because it is in conflict with your projection of strength. It might be pride, or the early conditioning of “it’s better to GIVE than to RECEIVE”.  If you are generally more comfortable being the “giver”, the fact that you are the one in control feels better to you than being the receiver.  It may be more emotionally comfortable, and doesn’t trigger feelings of unworthiness, self-value, etc.  In any case, when we don’t allow the ebb and flow of energy, there are consequences.  

As you can tell, this subject is deep and highly personal.  We all have our reasons about asking and receiving. 

Here’s a solution to think about:

If we stop and think for just a moment how the other person will feel by our reaching out, it could be a mindset changer.  Asking another for help says, “I value your opinion, your help, your insights, and your experience.” This creates a positive interchange. It helps them to feel valued and, in most cases, we generally enjoy helping each other.  When we refuse help, take a moment to think about how that rejection may feel to the person giving to you.  Although possibly altruistic on your part, that rejection can trigger feelings of inadequacy, rejection, or an imperfection of their offering. 

We may not be trained psychology experts, but we know how WE feel inside. Next time you need help, take a moment to think, who would be delighted to help you?  And when someone offers you something… before you say NO, help yourself make the transition from NO to maybe not yes yet… 

Allowing yourself and others to exchange help is our key to better results.  Can you do it? 

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Terri Murphy

Terri Murphy, Communication engagement specialist, author, speaker, consultant, and Master Coach with Workman Success. She is the author of 5 books, TedTalk speaker and co-radio host on Contact: or Email: [email protected]

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