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“I hate asking for help.”
I was driving home listening to one of my favorite podcasts when the topic of being an introverted entrepreneur came up. I heard people repeatedly use statements like the above to describe their challenges, especially those just starting their businesses.
That’s when I felt it: a twinge of recognition. Even though I now run a successful form-building company with over 20 million users worldwide, I vividly remember being more of a shy kid growing up. And back in 2006, when I founded my startup, I didn’t possess the degree of self-confidence I do now: I was much more of an introvert at networking events and found it hard to reach out to others for advice or counsel.
In a 2019 Entrepreneur article, writer Raj De Matta noted that being an introverted CEO isn’t the kiss of death we might think it is. In fact, he points out that many successful leaders — including Bill Gates, Larry Page, Steve Wozniak and Warren Buffett — had once applied this label to themselves. Moreover, he observes, introverts make for excellent listeners and tend to mindfully choose their words — preferring meaning over fluff.
But the one thing they most struggle with? You guessed it: Overcoming the fear of asking for help.
Related: 5 Ways to Get Better at Asking for Help
“The truth is, asking for help puts us in a vulnerable position,” writes Alexa Dagostino in another 2019 Entrepreneur article. “We admit we don’t know something to somebody we might not be comfortable sharing that weakness with.”
“Sometimes, we even have to ask for help multiple times from the same person,” she adds, “making us feel embarrassed and even causing us to doubt our abilities.”
The truth is that putting ourselves out there can feel intimidating, especially when we’re used to resolving problems on our own. And as entrepreneurs, there are always new problems to reckon with. So how can we become comfortable with reaching out? Below are a few methods I’ve learned, based on both experts’ observations and my own experiences.
1. Recharge first
When you’re in overwhelm mode, asking for help can seem daunting. It’s much easier to work yourself into a sweat with your heart racing wildly if you’ve only slept four hours. Recharging, then, is essential.
I’ve been practicing mindfulness in many forms throughout the years — whether through meditation, mindful walking or just plain unplugging and doing nothing for an hour or two. These seem too easy, right? But they have numerous benefits, including allowing your mind to feel calm enough to approach others.
Related: Why Mindfulness Matters for Entrepreneurs
2. View reaching out as a sign of strength
It’s simply a myth that there is something virtuous about forging through things alone — getting the job done no matter how stressful it is. Also writing for Entrepreneur, Brent Ritz notes that building a business requires us to seek advice, support and people with more expertise.
“[This] is not a sign of weakness or inability,” he observes. “It is a sign that you recognize what others can bring to your business and life and are prepared to let them do some things for you.” In that sense, reaching out for help is a manifestation of strength and resilience.
3. Hit the books first
Doing some research first and feeling confident about the subject matter can help build you up before approaching others. Senior vice president of marketing and sales for The UPS Store, Michelle Van Slyke, recommends the following:
“Make sure you have a clear understanding of your needs and identify the goal or objective you are working to achieve before looping in others. A more precise understanding of the problem you’re working to solve will help you develop the right questions.”
I’ve found this approach particularly helpful, as it’s a reminder of my capabilities as a leader and helps develop my motivation and confidence.
4. Create a culture that values offering help
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that to get more comfortable reaching out for help, you must also offer it. When a workplace is user-friendly, people don’t hesitate in sharing resources and knowledge. This is a dynamic that, Dagostino details, you can cultivate daily in interactions — by checking in regularly with employees and letting them know you’re available for questions or concerns. Help then becomes a trickle-down effect across an organization, making it easier for everyone to reach out to colleagues or superiors when they’re in a bind.
Related: 12 Easy and Efficient Ways Entrepreneurs Can Help Others
5. Be willing to accept what you don’t know
At my company, Jotform, it’s been humbling to see how others cultivate their relationships and broaden their horizons just by being open to learning.
Those of us with introverted tendencies often get caught up in our worlds, trying to find solutions without involving others. But part of being a great leader is being influenced by teamwork and how people show up for each other in different ways.
The most pivotal way I’ve learned to start asking for help has been simply acknowledging that I don’t know everything… that I don’t have all the answers (none of us do). Recognizing that fact is an indispensable part of intellectual honesty.
Related: Admit the Things You Don’t Understand and Other Must-Read Business Tips
With all this newfound clarity in mind, you too can become more emboldened in seeking help when it’s needed, without timidity or fear getting in the way.
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