Asking for Help ~ Final Installment
No. 56, September 2005
There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.
- George Shinn
Greetings from the new Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting office in Salem, Massachusetts! Some of you may have noticed the absence of Mannersmith Monthly last month. In July we moved from historic Old Town Marblehead (we will sincerely miss mornings at the Muffin Shop, lunches at The Landing, eating Coffey's ice cream, and the fabulous shops along Washington Street), and as many of you who have moved know, transitioning from one location to another is an all-consuming activity. This is doubly true when the move takes place on short notice. As the reality set in, I decided undaunted that I would "just do it." Unfortunately, for a fairly savvy business woman, this was not a very smart idea. For me to single-handedly move an entire office while maintaining daily operations was an unreasonably lofty goal.
Delegate Duties ~ With a move comes the fabulous task of transferring all the utilities. From canceling electricity in the old office to subscribing to new telephone services, there are many administrative details. Armed with all the Mannersmith utility bills, I began to sift through websites and 800-numbers to make the necessary changes. Four frustrating phone calls later, I looked over at Marianne. She was laughing at me. She smiled and said "So, are you going to ask me or are you going to do it all yourself?" While I am a Type-A all the way, I am also learning to ask for help. The "please" had barely escaped my lips before Marianne swooped in to take the documentation off my desk. My attention was freed to devote to the next aspect of the move.
Expert Effort ~ Upon viewing our fabulous new space, I decided the dark blue walls left by the last tenant would be completely claustrophobic for us. I momentarily played with the idea of a painting party as a Mannersmith team building activity. Then I remembered the laughable results of college painting parties. Despite gallons of paint, we never really quite managed to make those rooms look right. Skilled painters do not leave drip marks in the middle of walls, splatters on baseboards or spills on the rug. I called my new landlord for a recommendation. Our conversation revealed that painters also have their own eight foot ladders and can, just by eyeballing, know exactly how much paint is needed to cover, really cover, dark blue paint. The landlord offered to make the call for me. Not a fan of paint fumes, I decided a professional painter would be added to the move.
Outsourcing Muscle ~ With the paint drying in the new office, the original plan was for my husband to assist me in loading the desks, chairs, bookshelves, books, file cabinets, lights, refrigerator, computers, phones, printers, fax, pictures and years of knick-knacks into our cars and shuttle these items from one office to the next. During a preliminary trunk-load of items transitioning from office to office, I realized that moving would take, at best, two to three days full days. This was a task best left to others. One quick telephone call to a local company secured a truck and three very efficient movers. They would be able to complete the move in just four hours. And I would not have to lift the refrigerator!
Team Time ~ The movers were hired and the move date set. The next step was to pack the office. Even without twirling in my office chair, the thought of packing made me dizzy. I am not a fan of packing. Even packing a suitcase to go on vacation is enough to make me run for chocolate. I mentioned the daunting task of packing up the office to Winston. Having long ago established a work-style understanding, she immediately recognized my comment as a thinly veiled plea for help. "I will be there Tuesday" she said. "Oh... no" I said "really, I can do it myself." Since I hate packing I presumed she did too and I did not want to force this chore on her. Thankfully, Winston insisted. Tuesday came and we rolled up our sleeves expecting to be in the office all day. With the radio on, chatting as we went, we filled one box after another. By lunch time, we were done! I could not believe how easy (and fast) it was to pack an entire office. Working together truly lightened the load.
As Americans, we are raised on the mantra that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Our culture idolizes the solitary hero, the maverick, and the cowboy. This message discourages us from asking for help. To seek out others is to show weakness. But, in truth, to ask others for help is a sign of strength. Confident and secure people know what they can, and can not, do. They also know when to weigh their time, money and effort against what they could do versus what they should do.
As I began creating the requisite moving lists it became painstakingly clear that I was going to need to ask for help. While I could make all the utility telephone calls, and I could paint the new office, and I could move the furniture, and I could pack all by myself; this would not be the best use of my time. By asking for help, I was able to maintain Mannersmith operations and my sanity during the move.
...And as for the etiquette of asking for help; be sure to ask with a please and always end with a heartfelt thank you.
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