Asking is the Best First Step

One morning on my way to work, I was getting out of the subway and walking toward my office when I noticed a blind person standing not far from me. I guess I have always been kind of sensitive to people who have lost their sight, probably because one of my biggest fears is losing my vision. I enjoy being able to see my family’s faces, sunrises and sunsets, and all of the wonderful visions that make my life feel easier and complete and can’t imagine what I would do if I one day I woke up and couldn’t actually see all of these things.

Getting back to the man before me, if I had to guess I would say that he was most likely somewhere in his late twenties. And as I looked a little bit closer, I realized that he was fumbling with something in his hand. It appeared to be a piece of paper with something written on it.

It was kind of weird because I almost felt like I was in a movie. People were just racing back and forth, passing by him as if he wasn’t even there. Their faces were blurry to me as the only one I could clearly see, the only one I was thoroughly focused on, was him. . The young man finally held up the piece of paper and it read. “Can someone please help me cross the street?”

Although it seemed like forever, the reality is that just a second or two had passed, and as I was about to help him cross the street, a young 20-something woman stepped in and asked if she could help. With relief spreading across his face, he graciously accepted her offer. And after reading the paper and subsequently taking his arm, she began to lead him wherever it was he needed to go.

This brief yet impactful event made me think about how we don’t always have to wait for someone to ask for help before offering it ourselves. Often, we do like to wait until someone asks for our assistance for fear that we will offend or somehow make them feel bad by inquiring as whether or not they need help. We just stand and watch them struggle, waiting to see if they are willing to approach us, letting us know that it is okay to get them whatever they need in that moment in time.

However, sometimes it is a relief to them if you don’t force them to ask. Sometimes they feel just a little bit better about themselves if help is provided without having to admit that they can’t seem to find the solution on their own. This is true in business as well.

Whether you are speaking to a client who could clearly benefit from additional information about your product or service to better understand how to get the most from them, or when engaging with someone you are mentoring who is obviously struggling in a certain area in your field of expertise, a kindly stated, “How can I help you?” is sometimes all you need to say to make the whole experience better and more positive for them.

So, don’t be afraid to step in and ask if there is something you can do for someone else. While some people may politely decline your help and continue on alone, others will be more than thankful for the fact that you didn’t make them go in search of help.

You’ll recognize those people instantly by the look of relief on their face, helping you know beyond a shadow of the doubt that you did the right thing. Without having to be prompted by them. Without making them lose face. And just by offering one simple kindness, proving that help doesn’t have to be a one-way street.

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