Nikhil Jois

Experiments, Learnings and Inspiration

Category: Self help

Asking for help – A ‘How to’ guide

If you’re anything like me, the number of things you’re bad at is way greater than the number of things you’re good at. Most of us are like that. We need help. “Man is a social animal” is a lesson engraved into our young minds during primary school and you’d think that these would be signs of a need to learn how to ask for help. Especially since almost all of us have watched Yuval Noah Harari’s now-famous Ted talk.

 

Yet, as adults, we kinda suck at asking for help. This is my humble attempt at helping you ask for help. I know it sounds meta, but trust me – this’ll help you. Here we go:

Do your homework

If you wish to ask for help, you better do your homework. I’ll elaborate.

You’re the one who needs *my* help. Please have the decency to do some basic research before reaching out to me for help. Am I the right person to be asking for help? Are you sure I will not have to put in additional effort to make your life easier? Have you looked for other, easier, options such as …you know… asking Siri, Bixby, Alexa, Google Assistant, or some other sentient being?

You have? Good.  Another important point on the same lines – please don’t assume that I have prior knowledge about the topic you’re referring to. If there’s an explanation I may need, make sure you provide it. Don’t make me spend an hour on Wikipedia just so I can help you.

Listen to the great Dr Perry Cox and remind yourself of his mantra – “Help me to help you. Help me to help you. ”

 

Be specific

Please do not beat around the bush. All of us need help and we have our own problems to deal with. If you need me to introduce you to someone, please don’t hint at the need for an introduction by boring me with a long story. Just ask for it in a succinct and direct manner.

Bonus tips: ‘Yes or no?’ questions are awesome. Get to the ‘ask’ ASAP and save yourself and me time. In other words, let your request be action-oriented. If I read your email or text and still have to put in effort to understand what you’re asking for – sorry buddy, you’re not getting whatever it is that you were looking for.  Spell out exactly what I can do for you. It’ll save both of us time.

Authenticity matters

It is shameful that I even had to mention this point.  It’s a weird world we live in. Please be authentic and ask for help only when you really need it. Don’t do it to test me. Don’t ask for help because you’re lazy…and please don’t ask for help because you need to show off. Your need for validation and ego massages must not affect my life.

Respect the concept of time

This is a huge point. Please be respectful of my time if you’re asking for help. This means that if you can call instead of knocking on my door – you call. If you can text instead of calling – you text. Just in case you can email instead of texting – you get my drift.  Choose your medium based on the level of urgency.

If possible, mention the time frame along with your request. For example, If you send me an article you need edited – let me know if this is something that can be done tomorrow. If it can wait for a week, please make sure I know so that I don’t drop something else that I am working on to do something that is neither urgent nor a priority.

Since we’re on the topic of time, I’d like to mention the concept of ‘follow-up’ as well. If you’ve asked for help and haven’t heard back, it is perfectly ok to want to follow up and check for updates. However, please be realistic and wait for a day or two before you pounce on me to ask if I’ve gotten around to dealing with your request. We all have our own set of problems and tasks to deal with.

Provide a reason

This may sound super obvious but you’d be surprised at the sheer number of people who ask for help without mentioning why they need something done. If you want me to help you, the least you can do is trust me with the reason. Tell me why and include a sentence that looks like this –  “I’d really appreciate your help. I’m asking because…”

If I have a sense of belonging, I’m way more likely to help you.

 

Provide a way out

This sounds counterintuitive especially because several of us are taught to include phrases like “awaiting your positive response” or “thanks in advance” in our emails.

However, the kindest thing you can do is to provide some sort of an escape route. Some examples:

I’d love an introduction to X, but I completely understand if you’re not comfortable with an introduction at this point of time. 

I’d really appreciate it if you took a look at my cover letter before I send it out to a few recruiters. However, if your schedule is too full – I’ll understand. 

I see from your Facebook feed that you’re vacationing. However, if I didn’t ask, I’d feel like I did not even try. I completely understand if you’re not willing to pick up the phone while you’re on vacation. 

Providing a way out eases the pressure on the person you’re asking for help. If you put people in a tough situation where they aren’t comfortable declining help, your relationship may feel some strain because suddenly – the request feels like a command. Trust me – you don’t want that.

This brings me to my final point.

 Be generous and helpful

While I’m a huge proponent of the Karma theory, we live in a world where we pay it forward more often than we pay it back.  All of us get to where we are with help from several people.

The least we can do is pay it forward by helping others out. By becoming a connector of people and a generous helper, your credibility goes up by leaps and bounds.  Reciprocity is a huge motivator. The people who help others most often are the ones who are most comfortable with asking for help.

This is why I have no qualms at all about asking you for help with sharing this article. Do you know someone within your friend circle or family who would benefit from reading this guide? Share it with them. Do you think this would help your Facebook pals or Twitter followers? You know what to do.

One last thing. Every week,  I send out an email to a bunch of my friends. This email contains a summary of my favourite learnings from that week. It may include a quote, a book recommendation, a podcast recommendation, and other such cool resources. Does this sound like something you’d enjoy reading? If so, sign up below.

 

 

 

Why the ‘Best friend treatment’ is essential

I miss my best friend all the time.  We still talk on Twitter, and hang out every time we’re on the same continent. We even try to call each other at least once a month.  However, nothing can replace the feeling of having him nearby. I used to go to him whenever I had something to be happy about. I’d rush even sooner when I had something to be sad about.

Most of us are amazing as best friends. We may be not be very social or even talkative, but we’re amazing people when we’re around our best friends. We’re funny, supportive, naughty, and …well, bearable to them.

I want you to think about how you speak to your best friend and how (s)he treats you for a moment. I know this sounds cheesy, but just trust me on it. Warm, fuzzy feeling there yet? Now think about how you talk to yourself.

More often than not, we are super mean to ourselves. We’re always nagging. We don’t give ourselves pep talk often enough. We certainly don’t attempt to entertain ourselves. One of the simplest ways to grow and be happy is by choosing to speak to yourself like your best friend would speak to you.

I’ll simplify it a bit more by telling you what a best friend usually does. This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s a rather small list of my best friend’s best traits that help me grow. Here goes:

Solution-oriented advice

One of the best things about best friends is their ability to say, “Alright! Here’s what you should do…”

In a world where people are happy to dole out vague, generic advice – the best of friends are the only ones who give you actionable advice that you can use. It is refreshing and, quite honestly, the only kind of advice we need.

Tough love

Best friends are capable of dishing out tough love when need be. Are you in a relationship that is hurting you? Your best friend will rescue you.  Have you put on weight that you need to lose? Your best friend will insult (or inspire) you till you get fit.  Tough love is a super power that best friends use judiciously and effectively.

High Standards 

No one in my life uses the phrase “You deserve better” more often than my best friend does. These magical human beings also make sure that you never underperform. If you do, they’ll troll you and some random blogger on the Interwebs will call it “tough love” and try to convince you that it is a good thing.

Blatant flattery 

Some times, the perfect pick-me-up is a conversation where vulnerability is not an issue and the response is a no-holds-barred flattery contest.  The best of friends have the ability to make you feel loved even while you know that the pep talk you’re getting is nothing but stevia-coated flattery.

Motivation 

Best friends are amazing at motivating you. Even if the motivation is for a garbage cause, but their “Just do it” will have the intensity you need to get shit done. Some times, all it takes is a voice that gives a little nudge towards the right direction.

The whole point of listing those traits is to remind myself and you that it is not too hard to stop treating ourselves like some frenemy. All we need is an inner voice that sounds like our best friend. I’ve given this a try and the benefits are truly amazing.  I sleep better. I don’t feel as stressed out as I used to. Smiling a lot more often is effortless. I don’t get affected by negativity like I used to.

Newsletter

Speaking of best friends, I send a weekly email to some of my best friends on a weekly basis. The email usually goes out on Saturdays. The themes revolve around leadership, motivation, and stories. I try to summarise my learnings from several sources like books, articles, podcasts, and mentors. Would you like to be on that list? Then, sign up below.

You already know how to transform your life

Most us walk around waiting for special occasions to transform our lives. We rely on the perfection of a moment or its timing to assure ourselves that a miracle is, all of a sudden, a viable outcome. These inner monologues can come in several forms – “I’ll start working out on the first of January” “I’ll stop drinking after my birthday” “I’ll start blogging after I’m done with this project” or “I’ll start spending more time with my family after my job appraisal” among other similar-sounding sentences.

One of my tweets hit a note with several people who privately reached out and thanked me for triggering action.  Derek Sivers said something that has stuck with me – “If more information was the answer we’d all be Billionaires with a perfect set of abs.” The problem is almost never that we don’t know how to do something. We know exactly what to do and how to do it. We don’t do it right away because we tell ourselves one convenient line “I don’t feel like it.” In her famous TEDx Talk, Mel Robbins talks about how we are experts at succumbing to our inner snooze alarm. On a  daily basis, we postpone the things we know we ought to be doing.

There is a rational voice inside our heads that tells us to get shit done.  Listening to it may just allow you to transform your life today. Unfortunately, there is a much louder voice that tempts us to go get a shot of dopamine instead. This shot comes in various forms. Distractions lead to instant gratification and this can come in the guise of a video game or a YouTube binge-watching session.  The fact that most of us have access to every bit of gossip, negativity, pornography, and other means of abusing oneself at arm’s length doesn’t help.

There can be absolutely no change in the status quo if we train ourselves to settle.  As cliched as it may sound, ideas are a dime-a-dozen. It is execution that matters more than anything else. This does not mean you take hasty calls that risk everything all at once.  A sensible path is one where you are aware of your goal and do something to move towards it every single day.

Transforming your life can be done by doing something to be a better version of yourself in at least one department.

 

The aspects of my life I attempt to focus on:

  1. Physical Health – Staying healthy is an important aspect of reinvention. If you’ve ever felt depressed  – you know that this is a period during which you let go of your physical wellbeing. Bounce back and transform your life by eating a wee bit healthier. Cut those dirty carbohydrates. Stop yourself from eating that piece of candy that you know isn’t good for you. Move a little. Go out for a walk. Lift some damn weights. Drink more water.  Do something today that improves your physical health.
  2. Mental health – Mental wellbeing isn’t a topic that is as taboo as it used to. Thank god for that. Seek help if need be and if not, daily practices such as guided meditation or an occasional social media detox can help keep your mind sharp, focused, and healthy. A lot of successful people also use journalling as a way to maintain their mental health and it is certainly worth a try.
  3. Spiritual health – This may seem iffy to several of you and it is a very personal aspect. However, I have found that staying away from negativity is easier said than done. I  surround myself with people who love me , trust me, and cherish my company has done wonders to my life.  This holds good for your online personas as well, by the way.  You cannot complain and be grateful at the same time. I find myself making a conscious choice to find things and people to be grateful for in any scenario. This helps in unimaginably amazing ways.

 

If you go through each day taking care of these little aspects and improving by even 1% on a daily basis, you can reinvent yourself and transform your life.

 

What next?

I will certainly write in-depth posts about each of these aspects in the future. Do you have any suggestions for topics I ought to be writing about? Do you have tips that fellow readers can use to become better versions of themselves? Leave a comment.

 

I’m also starting a newsletter. I’m yet to decide upon the frequency, but the emails will contain blog updates and other doses of inspiration that can help you become a better version of yourself.  This can be via favourite quotes I come across, links to podcasts or YouTube videos I found fascinating. Do subscribe if you feel that is something you’d like to read more about.

 

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