What to do when someone feels uncomfortable with asking for help?

Try a mentor from ACS Canberra Mentoring Program. 


  • If you look for support, you'll find it
  • People with mentors perform better, advance in their careers faster, and even experience more work-life satisfaction. And mentors benefit from it too. After all, “to teach is to learn twice”
  • Learn how to ask for help

Some of us have a bias towards independence. There are many reasons for this – pride of achievement, fear of looking weak, or maybe our culture. Independence can be good: if you are working on a task where you are the sole expert, or very short deadline without time for collaboration, it’s best just to put your head down and get it done yourself.

But if your task will impact others, or if you don’t have the time to do what needs to be done, or if others can easily help you (perhaps as an expert that you need), it’s time to reach out for assistance.

These situations will sound familiar to leaders and emerging professionals - and reinforces the need to ask for and accept help.

If you find yourself uncomfortable asking for help, follow these three strategies in order to grow your skills in this area and gain the benefit of assistance.

If you look for support, you’ll find it.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon shows us that “What you look for, you’ll see more of.” If you intend to help or to find a community, you’ll be able to see what is available. Look for help from colleagues, and utilize the pyramid method – asking people who else they know that might be able to assist.

Try a mentor.

The research on mentorship’s power is straightforward: People with mentors perform better, advance in their careers faster, and even experience more work-life satisfaction. And mentors benefit, too. After all, “to teach is to learn twice”. Despite all these benefits, and the fact that 76% of working professionals believe that a mentor is essential to growth, more than 54% do not have such a relationship. Don’t be shy about asking!

Ask for help from a mentor or someone else. But accepting help from others does not mean that you don’t do your best, or don’t work to your potential. It does mean that you can often achieve more if you work with others. The sooner you start asking and accepting help, the greater your odds of accomplishing your leadership goals.

Learn how to make the ask.

Wayne Baker, a professor from Ross Business School at University of Michigan, spent much of his career focused on the issue of how to effectively solicit help. His conclusion? It involves understanding your goals, tailoring your message and embracing the reciprocity of both giving and receiving. Fears that we are incompetent or weak or underestimating other people’s willingness to help can get in our way.

You’ll get better at asking if you build your “ask” muscle. Get clear about your goals, and then make a low risk request from a friendly colleague; an ask where you’re almost sure that the person will say yes. For example, ask a colleague for quick help on a topic that they are expert. Gradually build up to asks with more risk, and of course, more rewards.

If you are a member of ACS and located in Canberra, we invite you to become a mentor or mentee!

Application is now open for ACS Canberra members - 2023 Mentoring Program (starting from 16 Feb) *Application closes on 20 Jan 2023.

**Please note: If you have previously participated in the ACS Canberra Mentoring programs as a mentor, you do not need to submit this EOI form again. You can send an email to Jenalle.Bushby@acs.org.au or acs.canb@acs.org.au to express your interest.

Credit: this article was adapted from Forbes

Find out more about what ACS can do for you, membership benefits and upcoming events.