How to ask for help

I like to help people, but those asking for help have to meet me half way. Take this exchange recently with an old college buddy of mine.  Mind you this is on a holiday weekend:

He – “Do you have photoshop? If so, how hard would if be to completely remove the guy with the glasses and squeeze everyone else together?

let me know,

Me – “Of course I have Adobe Photoshop.”
He – “It needs to be high ress photo.”

This is all the information I’m given. Nothing about the time, the importance level, what it will be used for or anything. Am I going to be paid? It’s this charity work? Nothing.

Me – “Probably would take an hours work and the resolution depends on the original file.”
He – “Ok I didn’t realize. Now I understand.”
Me – “It requires carefully cutting out the person to be removed, moving the other people, fixing the background, fixing the shadows etc.”
He – silence

Seriously, this is like asking:

“Yo, do you have a car? If so I need you to pick my aunt up at the airport and drive her to my uncle’s.”

If you want to ask someone for help, have basic respect for their time and skills. At least explain the situation to them. Here are five tips for asking for help from the Harvard Business Review:

  • Earn responses to your requests by generously helping others in the first place.
  • Know what you want to ask.
  • Ask SMARTly.  Specific, Meaningful (why you need it), Action-oriented (ask for something to be done), Real (authentic, not made up), and Time-bound (when you need it).
  • Don’t assume you know who and what people know.
  • Create a culture where asking for help is encouraged.

Ask for help better and you might actually get the help you need.  Also don’t assume that your personal emergencies carry the same importance to others.  You might be in a flurry because your wife asked you to do something but that doesn’t mean some old friend needs to drop their weekend plans to do you a favor.  Especially when they are freebies.  Freebies require even more time for a professional to work them into their regular schedule.