I recently completed the Bury 10k run as a ‘visually impaired guide’ for Paul, a partially sighted chap in his early 50s. Now Paul can see, but only in a hazy fuzzy way out to about 3 metres, further out than that things are not distinguishable at all. Running with Paul was a bit of a rollercoaster, he can see well enough not to need a tether, I just advised him of lumps and bumps and holes in the road. He could distinguish when people were in front of him, but it was heart in the mouth stuff as he weaved between slower runners with the grace and finesse of a wayward bullock. Any minute I was waiting for a collision and a tumble of arms and legs as he took out ‘Paula’ running for Bury Hospice or ‘Frank’ running for SCOPE. Fortunately it never happened and he did an amazing job, running pretty well the whole way in a fab time of 1hr 6:44. For someone who had never really run until recently, this was a massive achievement. Paul would never have achieved what he achieved without asking for my help, but more importantly, we would not have achieved what we achieved without making it easy for me to help him.
I wrote last year about the fact that I think we are less likely to ask for help these days and this is such a missed opportunity. Find the blog here I bet you don’t ask for help very often?
It was the comment made by someone afterwards that has made me reflect on this recent experience – the person said “If you ask for help, make sure you give space for someone to actually step in and help you. If you don’t actively give someone time or space to join you then chances are they won’t, you’ll stoically carry on and probably have moments when you whinge about never getting any support.”
I think Paul strikes a really great balance – he tackles and takes on what he feels he can do, but knows not to push himself or expose himself to a situation in which he is unable to handle, he asks for my help with obstacles but works out the other runners for himself. Once we have found the wherewithal to ask for help, ensuring that help is effective and letting people actually help you is another matter. I have identified 3 top tips to ensuring you make it easy for people to help you.
- Find the right person in the first place – it may sound basic but the reality is help from someone who doesn’t have the skills, abilities or passion to support you will only make matters worse. Sometimes we have to turn down the wrong help to ensure that we get access to the right help. With the unprecedented access to all sorts of skills and capabilities online these days – it should not be difficult to find someone who is passionately capable at something you are not!
- Be clear exactly what help you need and how you want to receive it – I am sure that we have all been there, you need help, someone has volunteered, you wave them in the general direction of the kitchen muttering something about salad, only to find an hour later that the 10 chic Tibetan Salad bowls remain stacked in the cupboard, the disgusting large plastic mixing bowl is filled with a mixture of tomatoes and the out of date iceberg you were saving for the chickens, and all is slathered in a Caesar sauce that you know at least 3 of the guests hate. More fool you!
- Make space for people to get stuck in and resist the urge to correct if they are not quite doing it the way that you would – not everybody does things the way you do, and heaven forbid people might actually do things better. We want things to be right but remember you have asked for help, not a clone of you. I am sure that I was over communicating with Paul, pointed out stuff he didn’t need me to – but he tolerated my over enthusiasm and accepted the help and support I was giving him.
Of course it goes without saying that the unwritten 4th top tip is to be grateful and appreciative of what someone has done for you. Do so in a way that shows what their help means to you, make an emotional connection and you will find that source of help will always be there whenever you need it.