Over the past couple of years, I’ve gained a new “pet-peeve”. It seems that people have in general, forgot how to properly ask someone for help or advice with a task or a problem. Being a techie/geek I get little questions like these all of the time:

  • What does this error mean?
  • I downloaded a virus, how to I get rid of it?
  • My computer stopped working, do you know why?
  • How much would it cost to for a website?

[more]Without knowing what you were doing when you got the error, how in the world could I ever figure out what caused it, thus how to fix it. If you neglect to tell me the “since I moved my computer” part of your “computer stopped working” problem, I’ll likely be stabbing in the dark for solutions. If I don’t know what you want a website to do, how could I possible tell you what it would cost. Providing the person with the appropriate information regarding your problem will, most likely lead to a faster and better solution to the problem.

So next time you are asking someone to help you solve a problem Do the following:

  1. Explain what you are trying to do “THE BIG PICTURE” – Don’t just say I’m trying to put “this on that”. Explain why you want to “put this on that”. Providing the person to whom you are asking help a partial goal will ultimately get you a partial answer or none at all. Explaining the end goal, will help the person help you.
  2. Explain what you have done so far – “I’m trying mount a tire and can’t figure it out”, is not a useful explanation of what you have done. If what you are doing it a 30 step process, let the person know the steps and that you have accomplished 1-13 so far.
  3. Explain how you have tried to solve this dilemma – If you have tried a solution and it didn’t work, let the person know. Doing this does a couple of things. First, it shows that you truely are trying to solve this, and you are not wasting that person’s time by trying to solve a problem you really don’t care about. Secondly, and more obviously, it prevents the person from trying those solutions again.
  4. Listen! – The reason you are asking this person for help is probably because you think they know more than you about the problem subject. Remember this when they provide you a possible solution. Do not discard what they say, even if you do not understand. Ask! Also, If the problem solver is like me, they will probably try to show you how to figure out how to solve it, rather than solve it for you. Remember the “teach a man to fish” proverb!

Basically, if you are going to ask for help or assistance. BRING THE PERSON UP TO SPEED! Like I say to people all the time….”I’m not there for the conversations in your mind”. If I was you wouldn’t have to ask me for help…I’d already know.