We ask each other, daily, for little things. A quarter for the parking meter. An empty chair in a cafe. A lighter. A lift across town. And we must all, at one point or another, ask for the more difficult things: A promotion. An introduction to a friend. An introduction to a book. A loan. An STD test. A kidney.
If I learned anything from the surprising resonance of my TED talk, it was this:
Everybody struggles with asking.
From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us – it’s what lies beneath; the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.
It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.
American culture in particular has instilled in us the bizarre notion that to ask for help amounts to an admission of failure. But some of the most powerful, successful, admired people in the world seem, to me, to have something in common: they ask constantly, creatively, compassionately, and gracefully.
And to be sure: when you ask, there’s always the possibility of a no on the other side of the request. If we don’t allow for that no, we’re not actually asking, we’re either begging or demanding. But it is the fear of the no that keeps so many of our mouths sewn tightly shut.
Often it is our own sense that we are undeserving of help that has immobilized us. Whether it’s in the arts, at work, or in our relationships, we often resist asking not only because we’re afraid of rejection but also because we don’t even think we deserve what we’re asking for. We have to truly believe in the validity of what we’re asking for — which can be incredibly hard work and requires a tight-rope walk above the doom-valley of arrogance and entitlement. And even after finding that balance, how we ask, and how we receive the answer — allowing, even embracing, the no — is just as important as finding that feeling of valid-ness.
Amanda Palmer – busker bride, rock star, rabble rouser and author of “The Art of Asking” – took the words right out of my mouth.