Why we suck at asking for help

Book Journey

Table of contents

Hey friends,

Around a month ago, I went on a retreat with a group of startup founders. One thing we spoke about is how many of us struggle to ask for help.

A week or so after that retreat, my book editor Rachel said to me: “I feel like you don’t ask enough for help.” Since then, we’ve started doing additional weekly calls on Thursday evenings to check in on how writing is going. And it’s been great.

All of this made me wonder: Am I bad at asking for help when I need it?

✍️ What we worked on this week

This week, we looked into how people feel about asking for help. It turns out that many of us struggle with asking for help. One thing that holds us back is that we think there’ll be consequences from asking. We think that people might turn us down, might think we’re stupid for asking for help, might think we’re a burden for asking for help, and so on.

🧠 The most interesting thing we learned

Here’s one really cool hack I learned from the research:

Ask for advice, not feedback.

Asking for advice and feedback sound like the same thing, but it turns out that it can give you totally different outcomes. Researchers at the Harvard Business School found that when we ask for advice, we get much more specific and effective input than when we ask for feedback.

In one study, they asked participants for their input on a job application letter for a tutoring position. When participants were asked to provide feedback, the input was vague. When participants were asked to provide advice, the input was a lot more critical and actionable. For example, they described the ways in which they could improve their job application - emphasize certain past experiences, describe your tutoring style, explain why you’re well-matched to this tutoring job in particular.

So the next time you want some input into something you’re working on, ask for advice rather than feedback.

❓Question of the week

Do you struggle with asking for help or does it come quite easily to you? If you’re up for sharing an anecdote or story that might feature in the book, please reply here.

As usual, the form will ask you for your name and email (optional) so that we can give you credit for the story, or potentially reach out to you to ask for more details 🙂

📢 Answers from last week’s questions

Thanks to all of you who took part in our survey last week about teaching and mentoring others. We loved all these cool responses about what helping other does for you!

Mike said: “I’m a professional executive coach and I love my job for this exact reason. There is no buzz like the buzz of helping people improve their lives. Meaning is found in motion, in service to others.”

And Nat said: “Being able to offer advice and help students really motivated me because I felt like I knew what I was doing, and it was paying off as I was able to help them learn something too. In my current job, I train clients and staff members and I get that same feeling. I want to be better so I can do better for others.”

Hearing about how much people enjoy helping others makes it even more of a puzzle that we’re afraid to ask for help…

📚 RadReads

Speaking of asking for advice, one of my favourite ways of getting advice (without asking for it ;) is through high-quality newsletters. If you’re into this kind of thing, check out RadReads. We’re going to be doing a swap with them - exciting times!

RadReads is a weekly newsletter by Khe Hy. Each week, 35,000 subscribers get actionable tips on boosting your creativity, reducing overwhelm and getting more done (by working smarter). Take control of your biggest priorities with Khe’s free email training.

That’s it from me for now. Have a great week!

Ali xx


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