Why you should avoid saying, “Let me know how I can help.”

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I read an article recently that advised against ending off your emails to clients with the following sentence:

‘Let me know how I can help.’

My initial reaction: But, it’s such a nice thing to say – you’re giving the other person an opportunity to inform you when they need help with something. Right?

Wrong.

The article was directed towards freelancers and focused specifically on communicating via email. But it reminded me of something very important – the idea of taking initiative. I realized that the author’s suggestion applied to so many things in life.

I’d always been a ‘keener’ but for some reason, I only learned what initiative really meant after I started working. I was proactive enough to get involved in extra-curricular activities but when it came to working a job, I was taking the more traditional approach: I was waiting for direction.

And I guess that’s where we’re wrong. In reality, we grow when we take that extra step; when we stop waiting for others to ‘let us know’.

As I read on, I started to think about why we simply end our conversations with ‘let me know’.

Just like the article mentions, I realized that I said this to my manager because I was hesitant. I was new to the company and I was an amateur. How could I possibly make any suggestions? Turns out this hesitation was working against me – and rightfully so. I soon realized that I should be doing what the article mentioned – suggesting things I could do instead of waiting for my manager to come up with something. (This is especially true when you’re working for a startup or looking to work for one!)

Why we end off our conversations with ‘let me know’ depends on a number of factors – who the person is, the context of the conversation, the timing, the setting etc. But no matter what, the underlying reason is always this:

Saying ‘let me know’ allows us to defer any responsibility to the other person. The onus is on them.

But that’s not how it should be. If a friend is stressed, it’s better to suggest how you can help instead of asking them to inform you if there’s something you can help with (same goes for family!). When you’re looking to get involved with an organization, it’s better to suggest how you can be of assistance rather than saying, ‘I love what you’re doing. Let me know how I can get involved.’

I love it when people tell me exactly what they can do for Hacking Health or mention a couple ways in which they can help instead of asking me. Those are the people I end up reaching out to. 

Look at it like this: if you’re making life harder for yourself and easier for the other person, you’re taking initiative. And taking that extra step is always better!

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