How To Unlock The Power of Asking

power-of-asking 2

As I walked through Central Station this morning, navigating a throng of people standing there for some kind of Elvis festival, some watching, some filming, and some dressed as Elvis, I thought to myself “Hey, maybe I should get a photo of all the different Elvises”. There were an amazing array of people dressed as Elvis. All in the white jumpsuit, and all of different sizes, shapes and genders.

I was already an hour later than usual to work, so I decided I should probably just focus on getting to work and not worry about photographing the Elvises. But, as so often happens when one misses an opportunity, I thought through how it would have gone if I had decided to. If I had taken a photo and posted it, someone would have asked how I got them all together. So I thought of how I would do it – I would have announced loudly “Can I get all the Elvises over here for a photo please?” and collected them all to the side so I could photograph them. With the obvious exception of the one performing at that particular time.

Did I have any authority to start ordering random people in Central station around? Of course not. But that wouldn’t have stopped me, I do it all the time. I always end up being the fire warden at workplaces for that very reason. Make your request loud and clear and people will just do it.

Then it clicked. The Power of Asking.

I have been benefiting from the power of asking and I never knew it until now.

A few years back, JJ showed me a TED talk by Amanda Palmer about the art of asking and it was great but it didn’t mean as much to me as it did to him and I’ve finally realised why – I already did it. I do it all the time.

And, looking back, I’ve been doing it my whole life.

From getting snacks from mum in the car on long trips, to getting the gaming console everyone wanted. From having a big birthday celebration every year with everyone making a fuss over me, to being looked after when I’m sick.

I became sports house captain at school, having never played a proper day of sport in my life. I was nominated for an award at work. I took two days off work in January as flexi-time having just started the job two months ago. I have had every piece of jewelry I’ve ever purchased discounted, as well as TVs, coffee machines, clothes dryers, and anything you can buy at JB Hi Fi.

Often throughout my life people have asked me how I got something, how I did something or how something happened and I’ve been surprised. Surprised because the answer is always the same: I asked.

Things and opportunities don’t get handed to me – I ask for them.

You can’t get things if you don’t ask for them. People can’t read your mind to know what you want if you don’t tell them. If you need more of something, you need to speak up and ask for it.

The Viking is a prime example of this. His mental health is far worse than mine. His physical health is far worse than mine. His birthday means even more to him than mine does to me. But he doesn’t get attention for any of these things, certainly not as much as I do. It has always frustrated him, and he has chalked it up to people liking me more than they like him.

It’s always frustrated me because I don’t understand how anyone is supposed to know any of these things if you don’t tell them.

This morning when it clicked I immediately texted him to tell him I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve finally realised the difference between the way we are treated and, as I always suspected, it has nothing to do with how much we’re liked. It has everything to do with asking.

If you practice asking, you will suddenly discover the world is a very friendly place. People want to help you, people want to do things for you, people want to give you what you want (as long as what you want is reasonable and within their power to give). Sales people, friends, family, strangers, everyone responds to asking.

Asking is a very powerful thing, and I’d like to encourage you to try it. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t practiced the power of asking, even if I didn’t know I was doing it.

Do you practice the power of asking? Do you get frustrated when people seem to get things handed to them? 

In case you haven’t seen Amanda Palmer’s talk, here it is:

  • http://johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

    I suspect I’m like the Viking, but I’m better at asking than I used to be.

    For example, I asked a published author – someone I knew from Facebook but who I wouldn’t have said was a friend – to be a beta reader for my unpublished book – and she said yes…

    The feedback I got from her was brilliant – encouraging and thoughtful and intelligent – all because I asked for her help. And to be honest, I think she said yes because she was flattered to be asked…

    :)

    I can understand why the Amanda Palmer video didn’t speak to you as much as it did me – as you say, you already knew how to ask – but I think most of us find it less intuitive than you do. You’re a fortunate person that way.

    • http://kikiandtea.com/ Tamsin Howse

      It did speak to me, but very differently. For me it was all about trust, not about asking. I agree I’m fortunate in that I had already developed the art of asking, until today it had never really occurred to me that I had.
      You’re totally right about people being flattered to be asked. Most people are when you ask something important!

  • Gary

    Thank you Tamsin. I needed that.

  • Delilah

    “From getting snacks from mum in the car on long trips, to getting the gaming console everyone wanted. From having a big birthday celebration every year with everyone making a fuss over me, to being looked after when I’m sick.

    I became sports house captain at school, having never played a proper day of sport in my life. I was nominated for an award at work. I took two days off work in January as flexi-time having just started the job two months ago. I have had every piece of jewelry I’ve ever purchased discounted, as well as TVs, coffee machines, clothes dryers, and anything you can buy at JB Hi Fi.”

    You are proud of this? This sounds spoilt, not empowered.

    • Jessica Chapman

      Spoilt, there’s a word a lot of people used to describe me. It got to the point where I was actually ashamed of the good things I had been given. No longer was I excited enough about things to share them with my friends. I’d hide them. Never tell any one when I got something new that I loved. I let others jealously diminish my joy because I didn’t want anyone to think I was spoilt.

      Lucky is a word I’d use to describe myself now, lucky I was born into a generous family. Lucky that I could have some of the things I asked for and a mother who could tell sometimes when I really wanted something but was too ashamed of the spoilt tag to ask for it.

      Did I get everything I asked for? No. Did I realise that if I wanted somethings it meant I couldn’t have others? Yes.

      I also eventually learnt to cope with the sourness of others because they wanted to have the things I asked for. Not asking for things because you think other people will think you’re spoilt for getting them only diminishes your own joy without bringing any to anyone else. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in life is that sour and jealous people will always be sour and it has nothing to do with you.

      • Delilah

        I have no issue with asking for and receiving things. My dilemma here is that it doesn’t feel like the author is being humble about their good fortune, rather it comes across as being demanding.
        ‘You can’t get things if you don’t ask for them’ well I think you can definitely get things if you work for them. Should you feel ashamed because you’ve been born into a ‘generous’ family, I don’t think so. You can be excited about getting things, whether material or an experience and not be boastful. Being proud of taking time off work when you’re two months into a new job seems odd to me.

        • Jessica Chapman

          I don’t think she’s saying that you shouldn’t have to work for things, I think she’s saying that there are things that when you want or need things from other people (like friends and family) you have to ask because they’re not mind readers.

          Demanding isn’t the same thing as asking. Demanding is an expectation, asking is a question that could easily receive a negative reply. I think it would have been beyond the scope of the post to detail instances where the author asked and received a no in response. She did put in a caveat that people are usually happy to help if the request is reasonable and in their power.

          Also I believe flexi-time is a system where the hours taken off are worked at a different time and if the employer really had a problem with it they would have refused.