When we’re facing a tough problem, it can feel we’re on our own. I’ve certainly felt that way. But there’s always someone who can help, and most people like to help others. Helping feels good—it’s a deeply meaningful experience.

Yes, people like to help. But everyone is busy, and the most helpful people are often busier than most. The key to getting help is making it easy for people to help you. Here’s an example.

Imagine receiving an email from a friend of a friend asking for help with a difficult problem that lies in your area of professional expertise. Let’s say that email has the following attributes:

  • It's respectful and well-written.
  • It lists 3 books this person has already read on the subject.
  • It mentions 4 other people this person has already talked to about the problem.
  • It asks for a 15-minute phone call next week and proposes 5 times that would work well.

Most people would be happy to schedule the 15-minute phone call—this person has made it so easy! The more work we can do, the less falls to the person we’re asking for help.

And that’s a good arrangement for everyone.

Hat tip to Gabe the Bass Player.