Four Simple, Life Changing Words
Posted: December 29, 2012
The Friendly City Files
Four simple words, when used correctly and with the right intent, can make a powerful impact on your life … and on the lives of other people.
Here’s how. When you need help, start by saying these four, and only these four, words:
“Can you help me?” Then stop there.
You’re not a kid anymore. You’re an adult. You’re smart and experienced and savvy. You’ve accomplished things. You’ve earned your place in the world. So, when you ask for help you also tend to unconsciously add image enhancers.
For example, if you need help with a presentation you might go to someone and say, “I’m meeting with my boss next week and my slides need a few formatting tweaks… .” Or you might say, “We’re spending the week in Aspen skiing, but I think we missed our turn… ”
The problem with that wording is it serves to frame your importance and ensure your ego is protected.
Okay, you may need a little assistance with some trivial matter like a PowerPoint layout, but still: You are the one presenting to your boss. You do the heavy lifting around here. You are the big dog in this particular hunt. Or while you might be lost, you are the one spending the week at Aspen.
Plus you haven’t really asked — you’ve stated. When you’re in charge and accustomed to directing others, or when you’re nervous and unsure, turning a request into a directive is a really easy habit to fall into.
Here’s a better way. When you need help — no matter the kind of help you need or the person you need help from — take the bass out of your voice and the stiffness out of your spine and the captain out of your industry and simply say, with sincerity and humility, “Can you help me?”
I guarantee the other person will say, “Sure,” or, “I can try,” or, “What do you need?” No one will say “no,” not even a stranger. “Can you help me?” speaks powerfully to our instinctive desire to help other people.
Make sure you don’t frame your request. Don’t implicitly place yourself above the other person. Don’t make your request too specific. And don’t say what you need.
Instead, say what you can’t do. Follow up with, “I’m awful at PowerPoint and my slides look terrible.” Or, “I’m lost and I can’t find the hotel.”
When you ask that way, several powerful things immediately occur — especially for the other person:
One, you instantly convey respect. Without actually saying, you’ve said, “You know more than I do.” You’ve said, “You can do what I can’t.” You’ve said, “You have experience (or talents or something) that I don’t have.” You’ve said, “I respect you.” Respect is incredibly powerful — and empowering.
Two, you instantly convey trust. You display vulnerability, you admit to weakness, and you implicitly show that you trust the other person with that knowledge. You’ve said, “I trust you.” Trust is incredibly powerful ... and empowering.
Three, you instantly convey you’re willing to listen. You haven’t tried to say exactly how someone should help you. You give them the freedom to decide. You’ve said, “You don’t have to tell me what you think I want to hear; tell me what you think I should do.” That level of freedom is incredibly powerful … and empowering.
By showing you respect and trust other people, and by giving them the latitude to freely share their expertise or knowledge, you don’t just get the help you think you want.
You might also get the help you really need.
You get more — a lot more.
And so do other people, because they gain the true sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from being shown the respect and trust they — and everyone — deserves. Plus, you make it easier for them to ask you for help when they need it. You’ve shown it’s okay to express vulnerability, to admit a weakness and to know when you need help.
And then, best of all, you get to say two more incredibly powerful words:
And you get to truly mean those words.
Jeff Haden lives in Harrisonburg and is a ghostwriter and a columnist for Inc. Magazine. He can be reached at www.blackbirdinc.com.