What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

Did you parents ever try to convince you to try something new or different by asking you, “What’s the worst that can happen?” They were subtly trying to get you to realize you’d probably be no worse off for having tried. For example, asking someone for help, what’s the worst that can happen? If they refuse your offer you’re no worse off. However, if they yes you’re better off.

Asking for Help

If you’re struggling with something – driving directions, a project at work, chores at home – you’d think asking for help would be a no brainer. Unfortunately, all too often people don’t ask for help because of fear. Here are three fears you might have when it comes to asking for help:

  1. You’ll look incompetent. This is an outward focus. You want to appear like you have everything under control. In your mind asking for help indicates weakness in the eyes of others.
  2. You’ll feel stupid. This is an inward focus where you put pressure on yourself to have all the answers. Not wanting to feel stupid you may spend much more time than necessary to come up with the answers you need.
  3. The other person might say no. For the most part humans are little pleasure seekers and pain avoiders so it’s natural for you to want to avoid the pain of rejection.

People are More Willing to Help than You Think

Here’s some good news – research shows people are more willing to help than you might think. In one study university students were given a task – ask for an escort, not just directions – to the college gymnasium. The gym was about a 10 minute walk from where the ask was made so it was going to be a bit of an inconvenience for anyone agreeing to help.

Before getting to the task, each student was asked how many people they thought they’d have to approach in order to get a yes. The typical student thought they’d have to approach seven or eight people in order to get someone to help. The average guess was 7.2 people.

When the participants began asking they typically got help after approaching just two or three people. The average for all students was 2.3 people.

That’s significant! People overestimated rejection by more than 200%. If you knew you’d get the help you needed two or three times more than you thought, you’d be much more likely to ask for help whenever you needed it.

The Benefits of Asking for Help

There are lots of benefits to asking for assistance but we’ll focus on three that are very significant.

First, you get the help you needed. Getting help allows you to finish whatever you were trying to accomplish. That feels good but it also feels good knowing people were willing to help you. It restores a little faith in humanity.

Second, the people you help feel good about themselves. When we help others we get a little shot of oxytocin and that feels good. That good feeling reinforces people’s willingness to help in the future. We can accomplish more together than alone so it’s one way humans were designed to ensure our survival.

The third reason is the people who help you will like you more. Typically, you’d think getting help would make you like the helper more. And it does. However, a side benefit of getting help is that the helper comes to like you more.  Those who help you will justify their actions by generating reasons for having done so. Some of those reasons will include thinking about things they like about you.


Imagine there was raffle with a $1,000 prize and all you had to do was fill out an entry form to possibly win. You don’t have to buy a ticket, you won’t be put on some email list and there are no strings attached. Simply put yoru name on a slip of paper and drop it in the bucket. Would you enter the raffle? You have nothing to lose and you might win big.

Next time you need assistance look at asking for help like gambling without having to put money down. The odds of winning are better than you think but even if you don’t win you’re no worse off.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker and trainer, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed by more than 53,000 people! Persuasive Coaching went live earlier this year and Creating a Coaching Culture will be online in the second quarter. Have you watched these courses yet? Click either to see what you’ve been missing.

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