You are busy working hard on your 35-page report that’s due by close of business and you just raise your head in time to see Frank heading your way, with a worried, panicked look on his face.

Unknowingly, you begin to purse your lips in quiet rebellion hoping against hope, that the wind will blow him past your desk!

But, alas! … he’s here already. Can’t escape. $%&!

At this point, what are you hoping NOT to hear? We have all gone through this experience and we dread the colleagues who do not know how to ask for help – and to do so, professionally.

When asking for help, there is unspoken etiquette. There is a way to go about it that doesn’t leave the helper feeling used, stressed or harassed.

In fact, if you get it right, and avoid these 3 landmines, you will most likely end up with a happy helper; one who looks forward to helping you time after time. Incredible, isn’t it?

When asking for help, avoid these 3 landmines

1. Neediness

2. Entitlement

3. Emotional blackmail


How do we ask for help in a healthy manner?


Become aware or research, if you don’t know, the other person’s timing preferences. If you’re asking for financial help, is it better to ask today? Or do you mention it now, then follow up at month end? Will they be more receptive early in the morning, or immediately after lunch?

Who knows the answer? Their colleagues, their secretary, the receptionist, their driver… Get it? Someone knows. Do your research to increase the chances of a positive response.

Roll up your sleeves…

As much as possible, present possible solutions together with your problem. “If this happens, then this will happen” type of solution matrix. Apparently, we tend to warm up to those who appear to have already applied some energy that requires intellectual fortitude. After all, we “help those who help themselves first, no?”

And remember, you will be part of the solution – so don’t go transferring monkeys to other people’s in-trays. Be guided, then implement the solution and report back to them with feedback, and with thanks.

Emotional maturity…

Have the decency to ask your helper how they are doing, before you impatiently blurt out your “urgent” request. And really care about the answer. Take a breath. Smile. And thank them for being available to guide you, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This warm introduction to your request will let them know you see them as a human being, and not simply a humanised robot that you can use and lose whenever you want.

While we’re at it, realise that there are always two possible responses to your request. One is “No” and the other is “Yes”.

Clarity has its place…

Understand that the word “No” does not kill. So, please, relax and stop hyper-ventilating and coming across as borderline hysterical. At WDS Africa, we do not call it rejection because that’s only one way of looking at the word “No”. We call it “clarity”. It stops the guesswork and gives you more options for moving forward.

So now that you’ve heard “No”, what next?

image of sulking child

Something to ponder – From where did your “No” come?

Is it No, because the timing is wrong?

No, because the opportunity is not interesting?

No, because they do not trust your ability to handle the investment?

Your comeback

One thing to ask:

“If you don’t mind my asking, what would you have wanted to see before saying Yes?”


This brilliant question will give you a clue, a shining light into the inner spaces of how their mind works, of how they make decisions – and knowing this, will serve you well … in the next round.

Yes, there is ALWAYS a next round.

image of WDS happy client

To your success!

About the Lead Coach & CEO’s Confidante

Gerald Walterfang is passionate about walking with his Clients – and has excelled at creating a safe space for senior executives to shelter in. Contact him if you would like structured support as you journey through life. Professional career & personal development, is just a click away.

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