Many people are scared to ask for help for fear of looking stupid. This self-handicapping behaviour might be the single biggest thing holding back students. It may provide short term-comfort, but often this is at the expense of long-term development. So, how can we help young people understand why it is so important to ask for help?
Why is it important to ask for help?
1. Develops relationships
A recent review of the research found that asking for help, or more specifically sharing personal information and problems, demonstrates to others that we like them and want to develop the relationship. Also, by sharing information, we are able to create a positive impression of ourselves. People who are willing to share information are seen as more trusting, friendly, and warm. These are the attributes people look for when choosing who to develop a relationship with.
Research found that high performing teachers are more likely to seek advice and ask for help from their colleagues. This may be because high performers want to improve, and as such seek advice to identify and improve their weaknesses. A second possible explanation draws on the Dunning-Kruger effect, which states that those who are least able tend to have an inflated view of their abilities. This means low performing individuals are less likely to seek advice as they believe their performance levels are already high.
3. Improves resilience
Asking for help allows us to surround ourselves with people who can make us feel good and facilitate further development. These people create optimism and hope that we are able to deal with challenging situations, which improves our resilience. If we are able to ask for help and obtain feedback, we can overcome setbacks and grow – key traits needed to enhance our resilience.
4. Teams are often better than individuals
Having a team around you can enhance effort levels. Recent research found that sitting next to hard working people increases a person’s work ethic too. But what is more interesting is that this effect was found regardless of whether the individual was doing a harder or easier task than you or whether it was similar or unrelated.
5. Helps develop a Growth Mindset
Help from others can be acquired in the form of praise and feedback, which can facilitate better performance. One study looking at a group of 9 to 12 year-olds found that children who were praised for their intelligence were more likely to choose tasks that made them look intelligent in the future. However, children who were praised for their effort were more likely to choose tasks that would allow them to learn new information.
6. Improves mental health
Key to improving well-being is feeling connected to others and learning new things. Both of these things can be developed through asking others for help. Isolation often leads to worry, doubt and stress. After all, ‘no man is island’.
7. Other people see it as a good character trait
Author Brené Brown once wrote that ‘vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me’. This quote demonstrates how we believe that others see our vulnerability as a sign of weakness, but the truth is almost the exact opposite. Others think of our vulnerability as a sign of courage.
Recent research has supported this difference in the way vulnerability is viewed. In one study, people either rated their own vulnerability or another person’s vulnerability. The researchers found that people perceive their own vulnerability in a much more negative way than the one shown by others.
Whilst there may be a misconception (especially in teenagers) it is a sign of weakness to ask for help, evidence suggest that it is often the hallmark of a mature and resilient learner. Creating an environment where students feel confident to do so can help them improve their well-being, knowledge, mindset, and academic performance. For more information on how to develop a psychologically safe environment in your classroom, check out this blog.