What should you do when someone offers assistance or support for you new business, product, or other project? If at all possible, you should always say yes.

This may be counter-intuitive. Turning down an offer of help might make you feel proud and self-sufficient. You might also feel reluctant to accept help for fear of inconveniencing the person who offered it. You may even want to save the help for a later time when you might need it more.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Saying yes to an offer of help is almost always better than saying no. Here's why:

1. You don't know what the offer means to the person making it.

I learned this the hard way a few months back. I was overseeing a series of events at a local bookstore. Because I had my own mailing list and was accustomed to doing my own publicity, I consistently turned down offers of publicity help from the bookstore. Accepting would have meant changing my planning schedule, and besides, the person doing the publicity was a volunteer and I didn't want to add to her workload.

It was a truly boneheaded move. Instead of being grateful that I'd saved her some work, the publicity person felt dissed that I was ignoring her efforts. She was also frustrated because she really wanted to let her audience know about the events I was producing. After this happened a few times, she got angry. By the time I recognized my mistake it was much too late to fix things.

Don't let this happen to you. When someone offers to help you, you may have no idea what that offer means to them. Don't assume that you do.

2. Helping makes others feel good.

Think back to the last time you helped someone out. It felt terrific, didn't it? To refuse an offer of help is to deprive someone of that same wonderful feeling. That's a very unkind thing to do.

3. You may insult the helper.

Why would someone feel insulted that you turned down an offer of help? Because they may believe you feel their help has no value. That's the message I inadvertently sent when I turned down the publicity offer from the bookstore. Don't make the same mistake--if you simply can't accept help for some reason, make sure to say how much you value and appreciate the offer.

4. Going it alone is a bad strategy.

Being an entrepreneur, especially a solopreneur, is a lonely business. You're already likely to feel that you have to make every decision, complete every task, and be good at everything. Why on earth would you make that loneliness worse by refusing help when it comes along? Having someone support you, even if only with companionship or advice, will create a connection for you, for your business, and also for the person doing the helping. Being more connected is good for everyone. Don't turn away those connections if you can possibly avoid it.

5. Someone who's helped you once is likelier--not less likely--to do so again.

Some people believe that if they accept help now, it may not be available later when they really need it. And it may be true that someone with a limited sum to lend or invest can provide that money only once. But for other types of help the opposite is more likely to be true. That's because people who've helped you once will feel invested in your business, even if all they gave you was advice. If your business succeeds, it will validate their choices and make them feel good about themselves. If it fails, it will make them feel like they've failed as well.

Since most people would prefer to be right than wrong, they're likely to go the extra mile to prove that their decision to help was the correct one--if you've accepted that help and thus created a connection. So use that fact to you advantage by accepting help from as many different sources as you can. You'll have that many more people in your corner if you need them later on.

Published on: May 7, 2015