The Big Ask

“I’d rather be lost, stuck or miserable than ask for assistance.” Whenever I unveil that phrase on my flip chart in a training, there is a smattering of chuckles from the participants, usually one gender in particular. At first blush the phrase can elicit a little humor, for who doesn’t know someone (usually one gender in particular) who was going to one destination but ended up lost and ultimately miserable because he (or sometimes she) wasn’t willing to ask for directions. And while the only consequence in that situation is a bruised ego and possibly a good tongue lashing, if the sentence is applied to things a little more serious than the humor drops away rather quickly. Let me give you some examples.

“I’d rather be divorced than ask for assistance.” Statistics show that every day roughly 2,400 couples file for divorce in this country, many of which could have been avoided if only they were willing to ask for assistance from a counselor, therapist or a coach. They talk about it, maybe even schedule the appointment but ultimately they don’t go. Or they actually do finally go, but they waited so long that the relationship is too far gone to save.

“I’d rather be fired than ask for assistance.” How many of you have lost a job at least once in your life because you were unwilling to ask for assistance from a co­-worker or a boss? Choosing instead to try and figure it out on your own only to end up fired because you didn’t execute.

“I’d rather be broke or down and out than ask for assistance.” Most people have a network of people in their lives who would be more than willing to help them out when times get tough. Unfortunately, those willing to help never know because something got in the way of them receiving a request.

“I’d rather be alone than ask for assistance.” There are so many means to meet people in this information age, oftentimes requiring nothing more than registering on a website. And yet, thousands, maybe millions of adults remain alone because they are unwilling to ask for assistance in meeting someone either online or by simply asking their friends to introduce them to someone..

“I’d rather be dead than ask for assistance.” Every day in this country people die unnecessarily because they waited too long to get assistance regarding a health issue (usually one gender in particular). They wait and they wait until it’s ultimately too late to get life saving care. Every day!!

Casual man asking for help holding white board with title Help Wanted.

So what element is so powerful that it would have us choosing misery, or divorce, or being fired or broke or alone or even dead instead of asking for assistance? Well that element is familiar to all of us on some level, it’s called fear. In this case the big fear, the one that holds us back from taking action, is the fear of looking weak or inadequate. That is a big fear, especially for one gender in particular. And so we allow some pretty destructive consequences to emerge in our lives rather than ask for assistance. The irony is, that asking for assistance is a pretty clear sign of strength, not weakness. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you don’t have it all figured out. Yep, to actually reach out to someone and say “ha, I’m feeling kinda stuck, could I get your help on this?” Well that takes a lot of guts. It is anything but weak, at least from where I sit. How many of you reading this right now are choosing to be stuck in some area of your life because you are unwilling to ask for assistance from someone? What would it take for you to push through the fear and reach out with a big request?

From my perspective, those unwilling to ask for assistance are in some ways displaying a sense of reverse arrogance. And in that arrogance, they are denying themselves and another human being the opportunity to connect on a deep level. For assisting someone is one of the most powerful means by which two people connect. And when we let our ego get in the way of making that request, we forfeit a great opportunity to let someone get to know us in a meaningful way. Just look in your own life, doesn’t it feel great when someone asks you for assistance? Don’t you feel valued in that exchange? Don’t you feel a little closer after they’ve opened themselves up to you? So why wouldn’t it be the same going the other way? Why do we hold back, wanting to ask but in the end we don’t make the bold request?

Because it feels very vulnerable….to admit that we aren’t perfect. But it’s in our vulnerability that our humanness is most on display. Being vulnerable is one of the best ways to connect with another person.

There’s not a lot of actions we can take that are more vulnerable than asking for assistance. It opens a portal to our authentic self, letting someone see that we don’t have it all figured out (I’m still waiting to meet the first person that has it all figured out). And it opens up a space for someone to serve us, to lift us up and by doing so lift them up as well.

You can stay in the suffering that being stuck inevitably creates or you can courageously move towards upliftment by asking for assistance. Suffering or upliftment, you choose.

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