This Simple Trick Can Help You Get the Help You Want

Lone wolfing it isn't cool anymore. Asking for help is cool. Even if it's nerve-wracking or embarrassing, you're actually way more likely to get the backup you need than you think. While people are often willing to help when asked, the way you ask can make a big difference in how it helps you bond.

Writing for The Harvard Business Review, social psychologist Heidi Grant lays out a thorough framework for requesting assistance in ways that work for everybody. Obviously different approaches work for different people, especially when you take things like job hierarchies into consideration. But the most successful methods all have one thing in common: They put you and the person you're asking on the same side of a problem.

Grant advises readers to break down their asks into three steps before they make them. First, consider how to make your approach without forcing the other person into a corner. Openers like "Can I ask a favor?" and "I'm so sorry, but..." tend to make people feel trapped.

Next, frame your question in a way that puts you both on the same team. Rather than go with "We're the only two women on this project," Grant suggests "Have you noticed that we get interrupted all the time?" That highlights a shared experience, rather than a presumed shared identity.

Finally, make sure you're asking for something in a way that empowers the other person. Rather than just being someone with something you need, think of how your request is an opportunity for the other person (her example: "Be a generous donor" versus "Donate now"). Grant also illustrates how knowing and articulating what precisely what you want will help you both — as will gratitude. Some form of "thank you" used as an email closing produced markedly more results than a more formal "All best" or even "Cheers."