Why We Don’t Ask and Why We Should Anyway

| | Personal Leadership
Why We Don’t Ask and Why We Should Anyway post image

When was the last time you asked for something you really wanted or even needed to support your dreams?

Amanda Palmer ran one of the most successful crowd funding campaigns ever to raise money to support her music.  The record company was not satisfied with her results with only 25,000 units sold, so to keep pursuing her art she took matters into her own hands.  She set out to raise $100,000.  She raised $1.1 Million.

When people asked her how she got them to give her money she replied:

“I didn’t make them. I asked them. Through the very act of asking people you connect with them. And when you connect with people they want to help you.”
–Amanda Palmer

In her TED Talk titled The Art of Asking, Amanda shares her story and challenges us to think about why we don’t ask for what we want.  She also makes the case for why we should anyway.  Below is my attempt to distill some of her wisdom, but I encourage you to watch this insightful and enjoyable 13 minute talk.

Why Don’t We Ask?

We Might be Misunderstood

Needy and greedy are unfortunately common, and often ungrounded, judgments cast when people ask others for help or support.  In her days of “freelancing” as a human statue on city streets, Amanda shares the story of people yelling at her to “get a job” from their cars as they rode by, thinking it was appalling that people were paying her in exchange for nothing,

What one could not see from afar, she explains, is the value exchanged during moments of uncommon intimacy on a busy city street.  There was no price listed, or even a price expected, for the experience.  There were simply two people sharing a moment in which only they could understand the true exchange of value.  It was personal.  Both parties were free to choose.

Asking Makes Us Vulnerable

What if they say no?  We may intellectually understand that “no” inherently does not mean anything about us, except it can be hard for many, if not most of us, to not  experience at least some level of  being unappreciated, not valued, rejected, etc,, at least without a lot of training!  I’d venture to say we have all at one time or another made someone’s “no” to us mean something derogatory about us.

The vulnerability and fear of being misunderstood and poorly judged may cause us to stay locked in a mindset that can be described as “I can and should do this myself” to keep us safe.  Yet we must consider the opportunity cost of choosing safety over taking bold step toward the future we want by simply asking for what we need.

What Does It Really Mean When You Ask?

Amanda’s response is both insightful and informative:  “I trust you this much.  Should I?  Show Me.”  It speaks to what can be intense vulnerability when we are asking for help or support in something that truly matters to us.

She goes on to say that “For most of human history musicians and artists have been part of the community, connectors and openers, not untouchable stars.   Celebrity is about a lot of people loving people from a distance.  The Internet, and the content we are freely able to share on it, is taking us back.  It’s about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough.”

Why Ask Anyway?

Modern life may have given rise to individualism in many cultures, but nothing magnificent is ever created by just one individual.  Despite our attempts to be separate we remain inextricable connected.  I wonder how many countless dreams, magnificent art and possibilities that could enrich our lives are wasted because of fear to be bold enough to ask for what could give it life.

What could you ask for that has the potential to fuel your dreams? Who, how and what could you ask for to get the help and support you need?

Many thanks to my friend and colleague Camille Smith of Work In Progress Coaching for sharing this wonderful TED talk with me.


Enter A Comment

Mary Jo Asmus   |   06 March 2013   |   Reply

Susan, excellent post! I recall an “aha” moment in my life when I realized I didn’t ask for things because I feared the answer. Although my husband would argue that I am still “too independent” and refuse help when it’s offered, I would say that at least I now ask for help more often, and have a willingness to accept whatever the answer is with grace.

I see this come into play in companies where employees just don’t ask for what they want – for a variety of reasons. I recall an early High Potential leader who felt he deserved a promotion (and he was probably right) but hadn’t asked for it. I coached him to ask – and it was granted!

Susan Mazza   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

Thank you Mary Jo. Not asking because you fear the answer – I can relate to that! It takes work to learn to accept “whatever the answer is with grace” as you put it. For a long time I couldn’t get that sometimes “no” just means “no”. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I wonder how many people have what they want such as a promotion waiting right there for them if they would only just ask. Appreciate you stopping by!

Alli Polin   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

Wonderful post, Susan! Asking from afar, from a brand to groups has no intimacy at all. This is about something far more important that can happen when one human being truly connects with another human being, even if only for a moment.

Susan Mazza   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

Thank you Alli. Like how you say this “brand to groups has no intimacy at all”. Person to person connection is the essence of what makes the relationship economy tick!

skipprichard1   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

I hadn’t seen this talk, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

Susan Mazza   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

You are most welcome Skip! Glad you enjoyed it.

Jay Forte   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

Love this post. Thanks Susan. I find we are all so worried about the rejection that we forget our real purpose in life is to show up and be who we are – and to bring that authentic and best self to our world to change that world. We need each other and we each have things to share with each other. We just have to choose it.

Susan Mazza   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

Thank you Jay. The courage to ask is most definitely one of those essentials when it comes to finding what you so eloquently refer to at “The Greatness Zone”.

Jon Mertz   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

Great post and talk, Susan. Asking does create a sense of vulnerability, but people want to help and engage. We just need to ask, be open, be willing to listen. Jon

Susan Mazza   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

The thing we miss while tending to our own vulnerability is that being asked to support someone in fulfilling their dreams touches us deeply. When vulnerability meets a humbled heart a depth of connection possible that reminds us why we are here. Thank you for your comment and for continuing to engage with me here Jon.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

I love this post Susan for it affects EVERY aspect of life and work. Great insights, wonderfully presented, and makes everyone re-examine what they could achieve by asking.

Also, I see your blog has a new look. Very upbeat and energetic. Nice!

Susan Mazza   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

It does indeed affect EVERY aspect of our lives. Thanks for your kind words about my post and my blog. Exactly what I was going for with the new look! Glad it worked!!

Carl   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

Another excellent post Susan, and one that I connect with on many levels. Putting aside fears and asking for what you want is a sound practice in business relationships as well as personal.

Thank you for your work and your thoughts,
Best regards,

Susan Mazza   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

Thanks Carl! If there is any dream you have for which a bold request is burning inside here’s a nudge to just ask 🙂

Ibrahim Muhammed Ochigbo   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

Great article Susan, must say it is an eye opener to the fact that your next big break depends on the humility to ask, irrespective of the ultimate outcome

Susan Mazza   |   07 March 2013   |   Reply

A very insightful and motivating way to look at it Ibrahim. Thank you!