The Real Secret is a different kind of self help. We debunk the empty promises of so many books and DVDs and bring you a simple, sensible approach to real life fulfillment. We don't believe you can achieve happiness, or anything else, by simply wishing for, thinking about or visualising it. Our book - and this blog - takes only the best of what really works and turns it into a positive, practical 12-step programme that will enable you to take control of your life and raise your happiness levels.

* Learn Happiness Habits from Positive Psychology * Tame your Fear with Cutting Edge Neuroscience * Control your Time and Money like an Entrepreneur * Build Better Relationships through one Tested Technique

The Real Secret is simple, sensible, scientifically supported self help
by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


Asking For Help - it's easier than you think!

Researchers frequently ask people for help. We asked people for help when we were researching the Happiness Habits Experiment (Report due to be published shortly). Doing any kind of scientific research means asking people to carry out activities or have things done to them mentally or physically, then to answer questions or surveys about the experience - usually for little or no reward other than the interest of being involved.

We had a greater response to our request for people to sign up to the Happiness Habits Experiment than we expected. Some people we knew, but most whom we didn't, visited our website from our requests on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and signed up for our research project. In general, people are very co-operative about these sorts of requests for help - often unexpectedly so.

I recently had two separate operations on my feet, which meant I couldn't walk or drive for two months each time. I found it difficult to ask for help from my friends over these periods, but they seemed extraordinarily happy to take my children to school, walk my dog, run errands for me and take me to the hospital. Why did I think it would be otherwise?

Asking for help makes us look weak, which we don't enjoy even when that weakness is nothing to be ashamed of; we don't like imposing on others (even though we would not find it an imposition if they asked us to help them in the same way); and it also exposes us to possible rejection - we feel unreasonably relieved when people say yes.

Some new research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concludes that we grossly underestimate just how willing others are to help us out.

Francis Flynn and Vanessa Lake of Columbia University ran a series of studies to test people's estimation of how likely others were to help them out. They got participants to ask other people to fill in questionnaires, to borrow cell phones and to escort them to the gym. Across these studies they found that people underestimated how likely others were to help them by as much as 100% - an extraordinarily high figure.

Part of the reason for this underestimation is what psychologists call our "egocentric bias": we find it difficult to understand what others are thinking and feeling because we are stuck inside our own heads. But Flynn and Lake claim that there's more to it than that. It's also due to the fact that we underestimate just how much social pressure there is on other people to say yes. In effect, when we ask someone to help us, it's much more awkward and embarrassing for them to refuse than we might assume.

Now I'm begining to feel bad about all those friends who helped me out for what seemed two very long periods of disability. Were they really just too embarrassed to say no and resented all their kind support? But then again, there was no social pressure on the people we had no connection with who signed up to the Happiness Habits Experiment...

Flynn and Lake carried out two more studies to support this belief in the social pressure of agreeing to help by asking participants to put themselves in either the role of someone asking for help, or someone being asked for help. They found that when people were seeking help, they regularly played down the social costs of saying no. But when they were the potential helper they realised how difficult it was to say no.

So the moral of this research is that it's ok to ask for help - people are more likely to respond positively than you probably think they will, especially if you're not asking for too much from them. Most people are happy to help out - and, as we've said before, acts of kindness often provide the giver with as much happiness as the recipient.

But be aware that people may not feel able say no eaily, even when they don't much want to do what you ask. So be careful how much help you ask for, and make it easy for the people you've asked to say no if you don't want to put them under pressure.

We thought we'd put the first part of the asking for help research to the test - that is, that people are more likely to give help when asked than we think. So we have set up a page on our website asking people to help spread the word about The Real Secret and the effectiveness of our Happiness Habits. Please see if you feel happy to help us here, and if so, do let us know what you'll do by sending us the form at the bottom of the webpage.

Thank you for helping!

Posted by Lucy

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