Most of us struggle to ask for help. And even sometimes to accept help when it is offered. But what about when we don’t even need it? Is there ever a reason to receive help when we don’t need it? And how does this relate to your relationships at home and at work?
Today* as I got on the tube with my suitcase, heading to the Eurostar for my Masters’ reunion in Bruges (20 years OMG!), my bag got stuck in the ticket barriers. This meant that the man behind me had “tapped in” but couldn’t get through. It was awkward. He managed to get through the wider gates (the ones I should probably have gone through in the first place!) with another woman. I apologized. In the confusion, the lady and I bumped into each other gently and he reached out to take my case and offered to carry it up the stairs. People in London are much nicer than most people think and this is not the first offer I have received to carry my bag. Normally I say no, I’m fine, thank you. I’m used to carrying hand luggage and my bag was particularly light. But today I accepted.
Why? In that moment, a “no” would have created a barrier and added to the awkwardness of the situation and the discomfort of those involved. Me saying “thank you, that’s very kind of you” brought us closer together as the community that we are – wherever we are. The small amount of cooperation involved in getting one tiny light piece of hand luggage up the stairs, smoothed over the discomfort and we each went happily on our way.
Sometimes, cooperating and accepting help when we don’t need it, helps us to cooperate and accept help when we actually do. It builds teams and communities. It builds understanding and a spirit of collaboration. It makes everyone’s day better. At Google, the leadership team sometimes ask people to organize events or work on projects together even when it is not needed and it may take more time than one person doing it alone. They build relationships and systems on easy tasks so that when the tougher challenges come, they are ready.
Why accept help when you don’t need it? Partly because it flexes that muscle in an easier time. We don’t feel so vulnerable when we don’t need help – so perversely it may be easier to receive. And who knows, you may be surprised by letting people into your life and seeing how life can be easier than you thought?
So why not give it a go this week? Accept help when you don’t think you need it and let me know how it goes.