A comment on a recent post got me thinking about a simple habit that improves workplace communication:

When asking for help, make it as easy as possible for the other person to say yes.

Too often we view workplace relationships in terms of personality (“They’re nice, so they’ll help me”), or power (“I outrank them, so they’ll help me”) or duty (“It’s literally this person’s job to help me, so surely they will”).

It’s not that simple.

Everyone is overworked and struggling to get everything done, so when asking someone to set aside their other work and help us—even if it’s their job—it’s thoughtful (and wise) to smooth their path a bit.

Let’s put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Say they’ve just read our email or taken our phone call:

  • What's going through their mind?
  • How much work have we asked them to do?
  • How much time have we asked them to spend?
  • What else is on their plate right now?

Making it easy on the other person means more work for us, of course. It requires empathy, demanding that we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and consider their position, their priorities, their worries.

But it works. And here’s the icing on the cake: when one person helps another, it doesn’t unbalance the relationship—it strengthens it.

And life is all about relationships.