In my job, I ask for help every day. I ask experts and writers in all areas—finance, health, life—to help us put together informative stories for our readers. I ask our editorial team for help fact-checking stories, finding ­photos, proofreading and much more. And I am always thankful when these very busy people help me. But in my personal life, I sometimes find it difficult to ask for help. It isn’t just me. Studies have shown time and again that many of us underestimate how willing other people—friends and even ­strangers—are to help us.

Perhaps what’s even more surprising is how good those “helpers” feel after they assist us. Behavioral scientists at ­Stanford University have done several studies on this. Their conclusion from almost every one? The people asking for help almost always overestimate how inconvenienced the people they asked would feel…and underestimate how good those people would feel after helping.

It might help the “reluctant askers” to know that there is a correct way to go about it, says Wayne Baker, PhD, of University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business. His suggestion: Tailor your requests—personal and business—using the SMART acronym. Make them—Specific…Meaningful…Action-oriented…Realistic…Time-bound.

Of course, for requests that require a larger commitment or more effort, offer an out so that the people you are asking can decline graciously.

And most important of all—a heartfelt thank you…no matter how small the request.

So go ahead—make someone’s day. Ask for help!


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