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How to Ask for Help from People You Respect

I’m in the middle of self-publishing my first book. Ever since college, I dreamed of publishing my work and now I’m enjoying the reality of going for it.

For weeks, I’ve gathered testimonials. As you may know, they are powerful tools, especially when the people providing them are recognizable to the target reader.

My challenge: how do I get testimonials from all these people I respect? Well, I’ll tell you what I did and how I failed before I understood what worked best.

Asking

The first answer to how one gets help is “by asking.” Yes, some people miss that part by never trying.

Why is that? Why do we hold back from asking?

For me, there’s a lot of fear that comes up when I’m about to ask for help.

  • What if they say “no” to my request?
  • What if they ignore my request?
  • What if they see my request as a waste of time?

And those are just my conscious thoughts. There’s a good chance my subconscious replaced the words “my request” in the statements above with “me.”

  • What if they say “no” to me?
  • What if they ignore me?
  • What if they see me as a waste of time?

Sort of slaps the ego a bit harder—makes sense why we wouldn’t want to see it that way. Feels more painful, huh?

Until I could admit this complex belief to myself—that my book and I are the same entity—I stayed blind above the surface, doomed to make and repeat the mistake I’m about to share with you.

I began my testimonial hunt by researching and collecting a bunch of names and contact information. I didn’t go after the nationally famous but rather the community-famous. This smaller subset includes people who are famous within their area of expertise which makes them much more accessible.

Where I Totally Messed Up

In composing my email introduction along with my request, I bumped up against myself. In hindsight, I could see that the belief above showed up one level over (but still under the surface) as “I can’t ask for something without giving something in return.”

This belief highlights my capacity (or lack thereof) to receive, which I need if I want my book to do well.

Can you see how I was doing an excellent job of protecting my ego?

In basic structure, the first emails I wrote went something like:

  • I know and like you.
  • I just wrote a book.
  • Can you do me a favor?
  • I want feedback on my book.
  • Then maybe I can do a favor for you.
  • Lemme know.

With the energy of:

  • Only if you want to.
  • I guess.
  • Whatever.

Cute and very indirect, these emails got very few responses. And those who did respond let me know they didn’t have time and wished me luck.

I wondered why I got these kinds of responses. I furiously dissected the emails I sent.

Why was I asking for feedback? I had already worked with an awesome editor—I didn’t need feedback!

Why didn’t I mention the word “testimonial” at all? What was all this talk about “favors”? If people got the wrong idea, I might have been coming across as creepy!

Here’s what I realized…

I was playing small.

I believed that these people I respected were too far above me—that they wouldn’t have time for me. That without them I was going to fail.

Can you smell the desperation? Not very attractive, is it? Quite a setup for rejection. And I was the one rejecting myself before I ever gave them a chance to reject me by composing such a confusing message.

Take two…

I rewrote my email to something like this:

  • I know and like you.
  • I just wrote a book.
  • I want to feature your words in a testimonial on my book.
  • You might write something like… (sample)
  • Lemme know.

With the energy of:

  • I respect you and myself.
  • This can be easy.

Much more direct.

I even made sure the sample testimonial mimicked their communication style and what they cared about—in essence, showing that I “got” them.

After that, the responses shifted. I didn’t write to tons of people, just a handful. And this round was different.

People were not only saying “yes” they were thanking me for asking them! Thanking me for doing work that they cared about! (And the endorsements are still coming in!)

Woah!

Here’s what I’m left with…

When I play BIG…

Other people get a lot from my playing big. In my requests, I’m actually creating opportunities for other people to put their energy into something that moves them.

People can still say “no” to my requests and it doesn’t have to be personal. It’s just a “no.”

I don’t need to give back every time I receive. Sometimes, I can just relax and receive. It’s may be hard and unfamiliar for me to do so, but at the same time it’s worth practicing.

Nobody is above or below me.

No matter who I am, if someone opens their heart to me, communicates clearly and concisely, and shows me they “get” me by sharing something I care about, I will totally want to help them out. Wouldn’t you?

For me, playing big means taking risks, loving myself no matter what happens, trusting in a higher power, and expressing my truth, first to myself and then to others.

When asking for help, what does playing big mean to you?

Photo by Dimitri N

About Matthew Alexander Sloane

Matthew Alexander Sloane is a writer, artist, and brand strategist. His first book, Tulie’s Garden is a graphic novel about authenticity, vulnerability, and the dark side of being a man—as revealed through his own experience. You can help him self-publish this project via Kickstarter.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://pukkalists.wordpress.com Joy

    You mentioned something really intriguing to me in this post – about taking the rejection of your book personally, as if you and your book were the same. It reminded me of one of the Four Agreements, by. Don Miguel Ruiz:

    “Don’t Take Anything Personally:  Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

    It’s difficult to live in this manner, because it’s so easy to attach ourselves to whatever we’re doing or whatever interests us. But it’s helpful to remind ourselves that whatever anyone’s response is to you, it’s based out of their own selves. It is not who you are, but who they are. 

  • http://twitter.com/jodi_chapman Jodi Chapman

    Yes! I absolutely love this – thank you so much for reminding us all to ask ask ask! And also to play big. This is exactly where I am, too – on my way to approaching those I look up to to offer their testimonials for my books. And it’s so important to stand strong in your self worth before writing the emails. Your second version came from a place of empowerment – a place of collaboration instead of them simply doing you a favor. And you made it easy for them! Bravo, and I’m so happy (but not at all surprised) that the endorsements are flowing in.
    Congratulations!

  • http://zeroto60andbeyond.com Barbara Hammond

    You are so right.  I am just beginning to feel ok about asking for help or endorsements.  I’ve always been stubborn about making my own way and it has completely gotten in the way of my success.  I’m trying to adopt the attitude you have.  Thanks for the reminder!
    b

  • http://www.SavoringYourSixties.com Bonnie

    Thanks for this, Matthew! I’m just getting ready to ask some people if they’d like to spread the word about a free teleseminar I’m doing, 3 Simple Steps to Light Up Your Life.  This is a great reminder of how I want to ask and from what place within me.

  • Dawn

    I have only recently allowed myself back into the arena of asking. For many years I received exactly what you described, because I didn’t believe I was worthy of thier time.
    Times are different…and I am learning that out is ok to not only give help, but ask for andreceive it as well.

    This comes at a good time fkr me as I am beginning a new project..
    Surely will need to put this lesson into practice.

  • http://twitter.com/KaleyKlemp Kaley Klemp

    Knowing how to ask for help is one of the most important skills a businessperson can have! In my book, I talk in particular about how the “Caretaker” personality type has trouble with this skill, and this post is great for those people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mollycmccord Molly McCord

    Great post, Matthew! Very well written with some wonderful insights. Thanks for sharing your experience – it’s helpful to all of us reaching out and asking for support. I hope your book is a smashing success!

  • http://www.matthewsloane.com Matthew Alexander Sloane

    Amen, Joy

  • http://www.matthewsloane.com Matthew Alexander Sloane

    Practice. That’s a great way to think of it.

  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie @ WiseAtWork

    Matthew.

    Many of us were raised with humility as a value and because of this it’s challenging to ask for support in the workplace. The scenario of asking for help then really does make us vulnerable as humans.

    Good on you for asking for help. But better yet for asking clearly and directly the second time. I don’t think you were really playing big but I do think you were direct, clear, and authentic, which made replying much more compelling.

    Thanks for you inspiration and Congratulations on your book!

  • Pjd1

    Very interesting idea that you don’t have to give to receive. I was always taught that was polite but I see how that can trap you. It traps me too because when people give freely to me I am suspicious or have a hard time taking it without giving something back. Thanks for your post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anita-Nuss/522679782 Anita Nuss

    This helped me accepting “no”

  • Sidejjjjj

    Помогите люди пожалуста
    Народ помогите пожалусте мне нужна операция !
    у меня ребенак и жена безроботные у меня нет денег таких
    что бы проплотить за свою жизнь. У меня киста головного
    мозга, операция нужна немедлено!!! я живу еще неделю!,
    если не будет оперции я погибну и потеряю всё что у меня было!
    Мне сиволиш 22 года и у меня нет выхода как просить у ВАС!
    НА уКРАИНЕ ЖИВУ ЧТО БЫ ВЫЖАТЬ!не живу а выжываю!!!!
    Спасибо за понимание спасибо за то что откликнулись!!!
    мне нужно 109 000 доларов на операцию.
    номер счёта webmoney 406577586709 я не за буду !
    будет возможность верну!

  • http://www.facebook.com/emjpartridge Emily Partridge

    Thank you for this wonderful wisdom. This was just what I was looking for.

  • Viktoriy12345

    Hello!

    We don’t know you. But still decided to write
    you. The case is that my 3-year-old sister cerebral palsy, medical malpractice
    birth she was injured for this reason, the child is now an invalid. Yes fully
    baby is not cured, but it can go, if undergo a course of treatment.
    Unfortunately, the government does not help us, in Russia there are almost no
    free medicine. Had to ask strangers and ask for help. At the moment she learned
    to sit on the chair, stand about support, two handles to take toys. Now trying
    to crawl. We collect money for rehabilitation in Lviv center of doctor Падко (Lviv + exit summer courses in Crimea), the value of
    which 3 weeks $ 5,000. You may be able to help us, or know where to go. Thank you in advance.

    Здравствуйте!

    Мы с вами не знакомы. Но все же
    решилась вам написать. Дела в том, что у моей 3-х летней сестры ДЦП, из-за
    врачебной ошибки при рождении она получила травму по этой причине ребенок
    сейчас, инвалид. Да полностью малышку не вылечить, но она сможет ходить, если
    пройти курс лечения. К сожалению, правительство нам не помогает, в России
    сейчас практически не осталось бесплатной медицины. Вынуждена обращаться к
    незнакомым людям и просить о помощи. На данный момент она научилась сидеть на
    стульчике, стоять около опоры, двумя ручками брать игрушки. Сейчас пытается
    ползать. Собираем деньги на реабилитацию во Львовском центре доктора Падко (во
    Львове + выездные летние курсы в Крыму), стоимость которого 3 недели 5.000
    долларов. Возможно, вы сможете нам помочь, или знаете, куда можно обратиться. Заранее
    большое спасибо

    e-mail: viktori_b.v@mail.ru

  • Love1247

    how do I ask a girl out and what if she says no,please help me out

  • Crystol

    I am asking for help please!!! http://www.gofundme.com/42vkkw?preview=1