How to say “I need help” without being too demanding and desperate?

Often I am in the situation whereby I need help from my team members and superior but we do not have enough resources to cover the task. Everyone is so busy with their responsibilities and here I am struggling and not sure what to do. I know a lot of us can relate to this. I notice that most of us are afraid to ask for help because we think that we are such a burden to others.

As time passed by, I have learned that the key for a good communication during chaotic time is transparency. Do you need help from your team members? Or do you just want to share the progress of the project you are handling? Would you like to give a “gentle reminder” to other teams without sounding too demanding? I am not a communication expert but I would like to share lessons learnt from my experience.

What is the first step that you should implement before you ask for help?
You should know the topic. Is it an issue or is it an update? If it is a combination of both, you should draft your points accordingly. In this case, I always go with the update first, and followed by questions. Now with a lot of virtual communications, I am loving this technique more and more because that means people can read, process, and give some deep thoughts before replying. I know a lot still prefer to meet and talk directly but going virtual is not that bad.

You have tried so many ways to solve the issue. You have executed Plan A, B and C but none of them works. Now what?
My advice is to be honest with your team members but don’t forget to give them the list of plans executed. This way they will be aware on the things you have done and they can suggest other ways that perhaps can solve your problem. Avoid saying “Hey I am not able to do this. Can someone help me?” Give them pictures. Give them ideas. Let them know that you are not asking for help just because. Show them you are actually asking for help because you have done so many things but they seem not to work so now you need other opinions. Being a QA I have seen that this technique has ease my life in many ways especially when communicating to the developers because once they see the list of things I have done they will say “OK” and continue doing fixes. Compact but precise communication can save a lot of times. There are times that I forgot to do this though, and often I will be caught up in a problem of explaining the same thing again and again.

Consider a possible solution.
Unless the problem is really unmanageable, it is always a good idea if you can come up with your own opinion first. I learned this from my team lead. I used to go to him and asked questions without preparations. Then he explained to me that I should be able to describe the whole situation, list down all things that I have done, and whether I have my own thoughts on how to settle the problems. I am young. I am eager. I am impatient. And I realised that this technique has helped me to control my emotion, as I need to be more analytical and calm. There are still a lot to do when it comes to handling my emotion, though.

The most crucial part.
Transparency is the key. If you are asking for help, you should be honest to yourself and other people about your struggle. If you are in the situation of people asking for your help, you should be honest if you are unable to help them because you are having so much in your hands too. If you are about to give updates to other teams, you should be honest and tell them the situation you have encountered has caused the progress to be slower than expected. Give them clear timeline on when you expect the task to be done from your side.

Last but not least, be mindful when communicating. People often see me as someone that is YOLO and just say whatever I want to say but to be honest when it comes to important situations I always remind myself to lower down my ego. Also do not forget this word: PLEASE. “Can you PLEASE help to check on this bug?” “Can you PLEASE explain to me how can this issue persist?”. End your explanation and question with the simple “thank you”. If you know that person is busy but still provide time to entertain your question, show them appreciation and tell them you are grateful that they are being helpful. Celebrate their dedication. Show some love to the people around us.

Those points are numbers of things I have learned since I started my career as a QA Engineer. I still have a lot to learn. How do you ask for help and what is the best way to explain things to other people? Feel free to share your thoughts.

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