(This post is another retool from my Chatty Professor blog. I wrote it as a welcome to college love letter, if you will. My revision of this message for Campus Talk Blog is a continued personal plea: Don’t suffer in silence! Read on… then start asking! You can even write into this blog and ask a question—I’m glad to help.)
You’ve just received an assignment or exam with a grade that you aren’t happy about.
Or maybe you didn’t submit an assignment at all because you were confused. You thought that somehow, some way, you’d figure it out. But then you didn’t, and the deadline passed.
Quite possibly, you’ve stopped attending one of your classes. You realized early on you were in over your head. Now you’re just not showing up, but you haven’t withdrawn from the class either.
When students face these situations, the one thing that they typically don’t do is the one thing that has the greatest chance of solving the problem. Ready?
Asking for help!
There seems to be a widespread perception that asking for help equals weakness. I want to start a revolution that supports asking for help as a sign of strength. In fact, I’m spreading this phrase:
Asking for help is “the new smart”!
I teach my public speaking students that when they verbally cite credible sources in their speeches, they should picture themselves carrying the experts from those sources piggyback… sort of like a “credibility totem pole.” Or, like acrobats who flip and land on the shoulders of a “catcher.”
Think of this image when you use the “smarts” of others to support you. Asking others for help means that you carry their knowledge and wisdom on your shoulders. Then, you become stronger in your own knowledge.
College is the place to ask for help!
You can phrase it any way you like from:
-“Can you help?”
-“I don’t know what in the heck is going on here and I need to figure it out”
-“I’m totally lost and would like not to be.”
You can even approach the question somewhat covertly or abstractly:
-“I think I have an idea of what we’re supposed to be doing, but just want to ensure that I’m correct”
-“I’m missing the mark on this particular concept and I think I know why.”
The minute you become too proud or ashamed to ask for help is the minute that you’ve made a decision about the outcome of a troubling situation.
Ready for another bottom line?
Smart people don’t have all the answers, but they know when they don’t have them. Then, they strive to figure out where to get them. Now, I consider myself a pretty smart woman, but I don’t attribute my smartness to my degrees or my academic career.
I am smart because I am unafraid to find the people who know more and learn from them when I’m stuck.
Whether you are in high school or college, be selfish. Build your own “smart totem pole” or “acrobatic routine of brilliance.”
At the very least, open your mouth and ask for help from the people who have signed up to give it to you.
Need more ammunition? Read this USA Today College piece by an actual student who got over her fear of asking for help and went for it–with impressive results!