As a culture, we just don't ask for what we want. In some circles, it’s considered impolite, greedy or impatient. In others, it seems like there's unspoken merit associated with the martyr who waits wide-eyed by the table for a crumb to fall. How did it happen that we became expected to sit and stay and hope that some passer-by will happen to notice our tricks and maybe throw us a bone? Humility is important but enough is enough. There are polite and assertive ways to ask for what we want and have our needs met. Whatever the request, the act essentially boils down to asking for HELP. Help me, I'm drowning or help me pay my bills more easily - just different degrees of help.
The quality of our lives is directionally proportional to the number of times we ask for help.
Don't fight me on this. Being part of a community is epic for our wellbeing and we build this community when we lean on each other regularly.
Most of us are not born with a built-in ability to make requests comfortably. Even for those who were raised in the most stable, nurturing homes, where needs were met when requested and possibly even satisfied preemptively by an attuned caregiver, asking for help is still somehow paralyzing. There is hope, though. I believe that the “asking for help” muscle can be strengthened.
Asking for HELP - a series of secret missions
1. Every day ask someone for help with SOMETHING. Anything. Add it as an item to your daily grat list. OMG, you don't do a daily grat list? Tune in next week for some help on that gaping hole in your life. Ask for someone to reach for something on a shelf. Ask someone on the train to scootch over a bit so you can sit your weary ass down. Ask a boss for an extension on a deadline (even just a day). Get creative but do it. Ask for something. Every day. This is about consistency. Feel the burn.
2. See if you can think of an absolutely outrageous request. For this one, you want to go big or go home. See if you can pay for a coffee with something other than money (keep it clean, people!). Maybe a drawing or a cool crystal. And remember, the goal isn't for the person to say yes, it's for you to build up resilience to the fear of asking at all. You might get a NO (actually, go for a no) but you might get a yes. Either way, you win.
3. Take a moment to reflect on how you feel when someone asks YOU for help. Aside from the times when it's a pain in the ass, really think about how good it feels to be able to contribute to someone. Pause for a second and really recall a time you were of service. Marinate in that warm glow for a moment or two. Have you ever considered what an act of generosity it is to give someone else that good, warm and fuzzy feeling by asking them to help YOU? From this perspective, one might actually conclude that it is stingy to refrain from asking for help.
4. Don’t freak out - Freakouts happen when we wait until the last possible moment to ask for what we want. We ignore our desires time and time again, then when we are at the breaking point our request becomes more like a furious demanding monster. I mean - consider sex. I don’t know about you, but I've heard many people have a really hard time asking for what they want or need in the bedroom. How many resentments are built on the assumption that our partners are just going to take a hint or should magically know what it is that we want? Is it possible to challenge ourselves to ask for what we want in the bedroom, and better still, can we begin to ask our partners what it is that they want and further nurture an environment of open communication under the sheets? If you are single and don't want to be, see if you can ask someone to go out to dinner or a movie with you. If you are single and happy that way, see if you can ask the guy at the deli to stop asking "when you get married?".
Hey, give one or all of these suggestions a whirl and if you do, would you let me know what it felt like, what happened and what you've learned? It will help me out a lot.