Updated: Oct 5, 2020
Why people are afraid to ask for help in professional life and what psychological and physical advantages it brings if they do anyway.
When it comes to asking for help, men can learn from women. The Korn Ferry Institute, in its report "Women CEOs speak", states that 70 percent of female CEOs, but only 55 percent of all CEOs, are aware that modesty is highly valued as a benchmark. This means that female CEOs are much more aware than their male colleagues that they cannot determine the fate of their company alone. Therefore, women are much more likely than men to ask for the help of experts or members of their team. This characteristic is a competitive advantage and a key factor in breaking through the glass ceiling and reaching the peak of a career.
On the other hand, social psychologist Dr. Heidi Grant says in her book "Reinforcement" that people are more likely to like us when we ask for help. For our subconscious it makes more sense to do favors for people we like and it makes no sense to do favors for people you don't like. What if someone asks you for a favor you don't like and you are forced to do it? A cognitive dissonance arises: in order to solve the problem, our unconscious adjusts the opinion it has of the person. "Since I did you a favor, I like you." Now our own actions make sense and the opinion about this person has unconsciously changed.
In fact, we all need help in all phases of our lives to move forward and develop. We have times when we just want to be listened to for answers, strategies or to solve a problem.
Why don't we ask for help?
To not show weakness, for fear of being judged or underestimated, for fear of being vulnerable and exploited, for the false belief that as adults we have to solve everything on our own and because the problem is embarrassing in our eyes and we do not want to share it.
The longing for appreciation has been shaping us since prehistoric times. We had to organize ourselves as a group, had to be accepted and appreciated in order to feed ourselves and survive. Even in the XXI century this social instinct remains. We do not ask for help to look more efficient, stronger and more self-confident.
It is clear that the main reason is the fear to show our weaknesses. This leads to a prolongation of our suffering until we find enough courage to bring about change. Contrary to what we think, recent research shows that seeking help is extremely beneficial for us because it makes us grow, develop and be happier. We learn to share and analyze other points of view and to contact other people. When you are in a position of great responsibility, accepting support helps you to reduce stress and make better decisions that benefit not only yourself but others as well: Leaders, politicians, celebrities, managers, teachers, etc. Most of them wear a thick mask to hide their fears. It is up to the brave ones to ask for help.
Take a moment to think; look at all the photos that appear on your LinkedIn screen. View your own photo. All of these people, including yourself, have spent thousands of hours trying to create the perfect picture of yourself to present yourself in the best possible light. It's a great effort to protect yourself, isn't it? Of course, it is important to take the time to form a picture of yourself. But you also have to be aware that we are not perfect, that we cannot know everything and that there are times or situations when a colleague, boss, parent or professional can make us release, solve or make a lot out of a situation.... How many consultants and professionals have worked to help Obama in his speeches, decisions and charisma?
How many times have you asked for help? Did you ask the right person for advice? How did you feel? What did you learn?
What does our brain do?
Our prefrontal cortex is designed to solve problems. But when the problem directly affects us, we are sometimes blocked and cannot work with our rational brain. Emotions take over and make it impossible to find a way out.
From the first moment someone helps us, a large part of the energy that was blocked inside us is released. Stress is reduced and the release of oxytocin is increased. This hormone activates trust, empathy and generosity and reduces social anxiety. It is so powerful that it even helps to reduce drug addiction, which is why group meetings are so important in cases of drug abuse. Oxytocin makes you feel good. In addition, it is also released in the body of the person who helps and benefits from the same reaction.
Do you want to reduce your stress? Help someone out.
Helping and being helped goes beyond the solution of a problem. Move your daily life for the better by asking for help and it will spread to the people around you. This makes you more open, more generous, more caring and therefore more successful.