May 29th, 2013 | 6:00 am

Three Reasons We Hate Asking for Help – And Why We Need to Get Over Them

filed under Ask A Career Coach

Contributed by CEO Coach Henna Inam

“Umm…I have a favor to ask.” Believe it or not, these are some of the hardest words for me. As much as helping others makes me feel good, I have a hard time asking for help. Yet, asking people for favors is a key enabler for us to meet our goals. Here are three mindsets that keep us from asking others to help us and how to overcome them.

Asking for Favors is Tough. I was recently doing a keynote speech on the topic of “Getting Sponsored To the Top.” I shared data about how women have a very different view of work relationships than men that keeps them from getting sponsored. While most men are “strategic” about building work relationships in order to serve their goals, women tend to view relationships as the goal. Significantly more women than men have trouble asking for help in closing business deals or landing a job because we don’t want to undermine the relationship.

Three Mindsets That Keep Us from Asking

1. What if they say “No”? We’re afraid to ask for a favor because we don’t want to hear a “No.” When someone says “No” we feel rejected. It’s a rejection of us rather than the rejection of the favor. I know I’ve personally felt hurt when someone has said “No” to the favor I mustered up courage to ask for. We need to reframe the “No” as “No” to the favor and not “No” to us. If we assume a “No” means “I can’t help you with this favor right now”, we will be willing to make more asks.

2. I don’t want to bother someone by asking them for a favor. Underneath this mindset is the assumption that for someone to help us would be a bother. Think about the last time someone asked you for help. How did you feel? If you’re like me, you likely felt flattered that someone would think highly of you to ask for help. We need to reframe this mindset by assuming that asking others for help actually helps them feel good about themselves. Think about asking others for help as part of your public service to them!

3. If I ask for help, it must mean I’m not good enough to do it myself. As someone who is guilty of being fiercely independent, this is a mindset I need to practice overcoming all the time. I often catch the unconscious 2-year old toddler within me saying “I can do it all by myself.” “Yes you can,” I tell her, “but sometimes it’s just more fun doing something with others.” Who knows what a few different brains can come up with? Besides, asking others for help is a practice in humility…something I need to be practicing a lot!

What are the mindsets that stand in your way? The next time you’re wondering whether to make an ask, dig underneath about the assumption you’re making about the situation. Confirm whether this assumption is true. If someone consistently says “No,” it’s not about you, it’s about them. Don’t let someone else or your mindset take away your power to make an ask.

Now practice. Make a list of asks and see which of the mindsets above stand in your way. Reframe them and make the ask. Look at it like a science experiment. Our power lies in the choices we make about our mindset. Pick the mindset that empowers you and helps you achieve your goals.

Henna Inam is CEO of Transformational Leadership Inc., a company focused on helping women achieve their potential to be transformational leaders. A former C-Suite executive with Fortune 500 companies, her passion is to help leaders be successful, deeply engaged, and create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth and engagement. Connect @hennainam. Subscribe to her blog at


  1. Ashley Milne-Tyte

    Another excellent piece from Henna. There are so many important points here. I think you’re about to inspire my own blog post. I did a public radio story on female entrepreneurs last year and one of the things one of my sources said (a successful entrepreneur herself) was that she had hesitated to ask for help for too long, and that she met many other women entrepreneurs who were not asking for help for a combination of the reasons above. The main one, she believed, was the tendency to feel we have to do everything ourselves *and* do it perfectly. Of course that’s not possible when you’re doing way too much. Also, she thought a part of this was that men had had their own business networks for generations so they were in the habit of asking other men for help with one thing or another, whereas women were much newer in the business world so the ‘help’ part wasn’t yet part of their psyches. Thanks again for a thought provoking piece.

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