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When, Where, and How to Ask for Help: The Three Golden Rules

[ Get Help ] When working online or offline in the real world, it’s inevitable that you will encounter issues and problems with products, services, and everything else. This quick post explains when, where, and how to ask for help: The Three Golden Rules. It’s a general guide, aimed at those who may be unfamiliar.

When to ask for help

When to ask for help: After you have given a solid attempt at resolving the issue yourself. It’s that simple. Why would you want to try to resolve an issue yourself? Three BIG reasons:

  • Saves timeDIY usually is faster than relying on others
  • Experience — solving problems boosts your critical thinking skills
  • Solves the problem — if successful, you’ve solved the problem and can move on with your life

So keep that in mind and don’t be a lazy shlob. Take a few moments to think logically and try to figure things out for yourself. Even if you fail, you benefit from the experience of trying.

Where to ask for help

Where to ask for help: If you are unable to resolve the issue yourself, you need help. Here are the big three channels for help:

  • Product source — ask the seller for help, usually it is free but takes time
  • Friends and family — ask a knowledgeable friend or associate for help
  • Paid support — hire a professional to fix the problem for you

There are other places, but those are the typical/best sources for getting help. Also if none of the above are possible, hit the search engines should be able to find a support forum, conversation board, or other helpful resource.

How to ask for help

How to ask for help: Last but not least, it is important to understand how to ask for help. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people literally have zero clues. So the big three things to do:

  • Be polite — regardless of support mode, be polite and respectful
  • Communicate clearly — speak or type as clearly as possible
  • Be thorough — provide context plenty of details

Why do all of these things? Why not just shoot an email that says, “hey how do I fix this”? Because it is faster to communicate clearly and provide plenty of information. Plus you don’t come off sounding like a complete caveman.

Summary: Three Golden Rules

Alright let’s break this down in ultimately easy-to-grasp terms. Here are the Three Golden Rules for getting help when you have a problem with some product, service, or whatever:

  1. Try to resolve it yourself
  2. If not possible, ask the provider, friends, or hire someone
  3. When asking for help, be polite, clear, and provide plenty of information

Following those three simple rules will help you get results as quickly, effectively, and awesomely as possible :)

Jeff Starr
About the Author Jeff Starr = Fullstack Developer. Book Author. Teacher. Human Being.
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One response
  1. I might add one thought to the process:

    Sometimes a problem may seem to defy “all” attempts to solving it at THAT moment. This can be very frustrating at times, especially when we feel the need to rush things along. Hence the old adage: “Haste makes waste.”

    There are times when I find it most productive towards a particular problem, to simply “take a break” from it and go do something else (relaxing, I hope). It usually during this “break time” that I mentally analyze what I may be doing wrong, OR what part of the problem should get more of my attention.

    Therefore, I find that when I get some kind of quite distraction time, I somehow “mystically” come up with a better strategy or method to solving the “insolvable”. The nice surprise about it: I usually solve the problem very effectively when I return to the project a bit later!

    I can not recall how many times I “slept on it”, and then figured out how to finish the unfinished project.

    ( NOTE: Mindful meditation also works wonders, even for scientific problem-solving! )

    – Jim

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