Why Not Ask for Help?

I am a reviewer for the experience reports track for Agile 2017. I finished evaluating all the proposals in the track last week.

Here’s what struck me: too many proposals didn’t have enough information for me to accept them.

The conference has guidelines for a good proposal. Too many proposals didn’t follow the guidelines.

The authors could have made my job much more difficult if they had asked for help. Since too many submissions didn’t have enough information, I could reject them. I still had too many submissions I wanted to accept, but I couldn’t.

Why didn’t they ask for help?

Here are the circumstances under which I don’t ask for help:

  • When I am sure (totally positive!) I know what I’m doing. I don’t need the help.
  • When I think I don’t have the time to take advantage of the offer.
  • When I don’t think the people offering have anything of value to add. (We are a solid bunch of reviewers. We did!)

Let me deconstruct these three circumstances. I have enough self-confidence for several people. (I’ve said that already on this site.) When I “know” what I’m doing, I don’t ask for help. I submitted proposals to another track at the conference. I thought I had met the guidelines for a good submission. However, when I looked at the good example, I didn’t page down to see the entire submission. I missed crucial information that would make my submission better.

Luckily, the first people to review my submission gave me that feedback. I was a little embarrassed. Oh well. Better to be embarrassed by my lack of reading for the reviewers than disappointed by not being selected. (I won’t know if my submissions made it or not until the end of this month.)

Sometimes, I don’t have the time to take the help offered. I’m still (!) working on that volunteer book project. We received many comments on our first draft. And, we don’t have the time to integrate all the comments into the next draft which will be published later this year. We didn’t set our deadlines, or I would have accepted many more comments.

Sometimes, I think I know more than the people offering me help. For example, when I open doors, I lean against them. If someone “helps” me by opening the door more, I’ll fall over. I am now accustomed to looking for reflections in the door’s glass to see if anyone is helping. For me, unsolicited help often falls into this category. The problem is I might not know everything I need to know about the situation and I do need the help. Oh well.

A question I ask myself, which you might consider is this: Am I sure I don’t need the help?

Asking for help is a gift for the other person. Accepting help is a sign of strength, of openness to new possibilities.

That, dear readers is the question for this week: Why not ask for help?

2 thoughts on “Why Not Ask for Help?

  1. Jim Grey

    Because it would expose that I don’t know it all, and in the family in which I was raised that was a cardinal sin.

    So often these sorts of things reveal the work we need to do to push through the bits of our childhoods that don’t serve us so well as adults.

    1. johanna Post author

      Hi Jim, Wow, I missed a big one, the admitting we don’t know. Yup, I think that one hooks me too. Not so much because of how I grew up, but more because I don’t want to look as if I don’t know. Thanks!

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