The Philosophy of Asking: How To Ask
These days we are given so many mixed messages around asking for help v. self-reliance, it’s no wonder people see asking as a form of weakness and defeat….
Politicians vie with each other to cut social programs in favor of tax reduction and corporate gifts.
Big Time Megachurches turn away from assisting the poor, while their leaders drive expensive cars and live in massive houses.
Refugees and immigrants are either turned away outright or rounded up and deported.
Reality shows like “Shark Tank” glorify those who are willing to be ruthless and do anything to prove themselves better than anyone else.
Or, from the exact opposite viewpoint, you have to have the **most tragic story imaginable** in order for another reality show to swoop in and change your life with free houses, free makeovers, and free materialism. If all you have are normal difficulties and needs, you’re laughed off the stage.
It’s the basic metaphysical idea of “we are all One and interconnected” turned inside out: “You are One by yourself and to try and connect with anyone else means you lose.”
When people gather together to help each other, there can be mutual learning and mutual respect.
Barriers can be surmounted or brought down entirely. The gifts and talents of one group can be shared and grown within another.
Far more is done to save and bless this world when we share and build up one another instead of seeking to take what another has for our own glory.
So let’s look at what asking SHOULD be about, in a healthy, compassionate environment:
Asking can save time
There’s the old saying about “reinventing the wheel.” If you are struggling with an idea, trying to craft a solution, or figuring out priorities to get out of a stuck place, there is nothing wrong with asking someone who has been there what they did.
Here’s an example: when Oswald, our big Maine Coon cat had major surgery and had to be on “cage rest” (think confinement in a very large dog crate equipped with a bed and a litter box), we had NO idea how our rambunctious furry gentleman was going to tolerate being cooped up.
I canvassed all my friends who own Maine Coons until someone mentioned Dorothy, whose massive fellow dealt with a busted hip a few months back. She shared all of her tips and tricks with me so that we wouldn’t need any return trips to the vet!
Asking allows others to give
If a friend hurts, or we see someone in need, a natural human impulse is to say “here, let me help.” And there are enough of us around for whom that impulse is still alive.
Often, I have clients who can’t seem to accept assistance.
I ask them to remember a time when they helped someone. I ask them to think about that warm feeling, that great sense of knowing they did something beneficial that made a difference.
Most of them can remember not just one time when helping felt so good, but several.
When I then ask them, “Why would you deny that feeling to someone else?” they look at me dumbfounded.
They simply hadn’t put things together in quite that way before.
Asking gives you a chance to learn from an expert
Face it: we don’t know everything. We can’t. So there will be times when we bump up against our own ignorance on a subject.
Being willing to ask for help or information from an expert means we can avoid “rookie mistakes.”
It means that the expert gets to show off their expertise — and most experts LOVE doing that. And it means we learn from someone who has Been There and Done That in ways we might never have discovered.
Asking builds camaraderie
Meetup.com is a website that has global reach. It’s made up of literally tens of thousands of interest groups all over the world. From sheep-shearing to belly-dancing to robotics, there’s a group of people out there who are doing what you want to do and can teach what you want to learn.
And there’s a huge amount of enjoyment being part of a group that is working on the same challenges you are.
Asking builds teamwork
A famous flying museum, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, sought to build itself up after a decade of neglect. There was a lot of restoration work to be done, planes to rebuild, and infrastructure to repair.
So the old guard volunteers who had soldiered through the dark times let people know that “the Aerodrome was back.”
They put out the word, and asked for help.
And dozens of people who had stepped away during the period of mismanagement came back, eager to aid the Aerodrome in its return to its glory days.
Now, there are groups of volunteers that are teaching new folks how to prop biplanes, dope a wing, crank the vintage cars, or be part of the Sunday ground show for the audience.
And it’s a new, eager team, because the Old Guard wasn’t afraid to ask for help.
Asking opens you up to a different Point of View
Back to the tale of Owie Oswald, the surgery’d Maine Coon.
Everyone who has ever owned a pet is familiar with the dreaded “Cone of Shame” — the stiff, plastic shield that is meant to keep the animal from interfering with wound healing. But they are inflexible, uncomfortable, and for many animals, frightening.
It’s something neither pet nor person wants to deal with if they can avoid it.
In my search for help with my wounded boy, someone introduced me to the idea of cutting up a baby “onesie” for Oswald to wear, rather than the cone.
It took several tries (and four sizes, finally settling on a 5T!) before we got the right cut and wrestled our boy into one. While he was grumpy about having to wear it, the onesie did the trick and allowed Oswald to heal comfortably and safely.
So as you can see, there are some great reasons why asking is a good thing. Don’t be afraid to ask. It could open up some amazing possibilities.