Successfully asking for help makes life more satisfying

Q: I used to think that my husband was a bit of a tightwad when it came to paying our hired hands what they deserved for helping with harvest, seeding or whatever, but I realize now that my husband’s problem goes far beyond his miserly hourly rates.

The bottom line is that my husband does not know how to ask for help. It is sad in a way.

He took those few acres that his dad left for him and through hard work, good management and probably a little bit of luck, he turned them into a productive and massive farming operation.

However, it is too big now and he cannot do it alone anymore. Actually, he never could. The boys were home and worked solidly about the farm throughout high school. As well, I and my sisters put in our fair share of driving truck, herding and calving, and even rock picking.

My husband was not as independent as he thought. Now that the boys have left home and I am getting older and crankier, he is going to have to recognize that he needs help and he is going to have to learn how to ask for it from someone outside of the family. I don’t think that we can otherwise keep the farm.

So where are we going to start to help my husband understand that he needs all of the help he can get?

A: I guess that the starting point for all of this is to learn to appreciate that all of us, as human beings, cannot survive on our own. Obviously, some people need more help than others, but no one, despite the myth of the self-made person, is entirely independent.

When we were babies, we would have perished had not our moms and dads cuddled and nurtured us. We might not have made it through adolescence had not our parents supported our emotional turmoils, and of course we could not have survived those inevitable family crises without our neighbours pulling together to finish seeding, bringing in the crop or getting their big John Deeres to pull our John Deere out of the sloughs.

The sooner your husband recognizes that he is but one variable in a social network constructed for the well-being of all people, the better he will be.

I have three guidelines for your husband. The first is that he needs to be as clear and as specific as possible when he asks for help.

It is not enough to say that he needs help with the harvest. He needs to be able to clearly state what he expects his helpers to do. Of course, he is going to run into variables. The weather is always in flux, as are infestations of various little creatures bent on destroying the crops. They are unpredictable.

Nonetheless, your husband can figure out how many hours he needs on various pieces of machinery to make the whole thing workable. The few extra moments he spends better estimating those times, the easier it will be for him to get the help he needs.

The second guideline is that your husband needs to learn to appreciate that each of his workers is also intent on building a bundle of self-pride. Some of his workers will have some good ideas that he should consider.

Others will drive forward more effectively when they are given the freedom to do “good” work. And all of them need genuine praise and appreciation. Remember that old phrase about catching flies with honey? He will get better help when he appreciates the help he is getting rather than acting like a sour puss.

The final guideline is to pay an appropriate wage to those working on his farm. Farmyards these days are filled with millions of dollars worth of machinery. It is demanding of some skills to effectively operate them.

Obviously, your husband wants someone to competently run his machinery. Competency costs money, but it is worth it. Your farm will be the better for it if your husband pays his help their full value.

By getting help he needs, the chances are that your husband will be able to keep the farm and head off into these next few years with the satisfaction of having well done his job.

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