School schedules came out this week. There was an error on my oldest daughter’s schedule and she contacted her guidance counselor to see if she could correct it.
The counselor’s initial solutions were less than ideal. They appeared, understandably, to be the easiest for the school to accommodate but not for my daughter to actually experience day-to-day.
I encouraged her to respond and ask if there were any other options. She was reluctant at first and I used that classic adage, ‘It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
In reality though, for some of us – my daughter and myself included – it sort of does.
Later in the week, that same daughter was reading Catcher in the Rye as part of her summer reading assignment. I asked her to read some of it out loud to reacquaint myself with the unique voice that was Holden Caulfield. Coincidentally, this was part of the passage she read:
“‘Hey,’ Stradlater said. ‘Want to do me a big favor? ‘What?’ I said. Not too enthusiastic. He was always asking you to do him a big favor. You take a very handsome guy or a guy that thinks he’s a real hot shot. Just because they are crazy about themself, they think that you’re crazy about them too and that you’re just dying to do them a favor. It’s sorta of funny in a way.”
What Salinger is acknowledging is that the act of asking is often dependent on some level of confidence and a inequitable power dynamic.
Asking comes easier for some than others. It is both personal and contextual. The reasons for not asking for help, guidance, or support are plentiful. We can feel as if we don’t want to imposition someone or that our request is a reflection of weakness. That the act of asking is a poor reflection on ourselves.
To the extent we seek help at all, we resort to more passive ways of asking. Often caveating our requests with phrases like “I don’t want to be a bother,” or “only if you have time.” This is a far cry from the assertiveness of Stradlater’s request above.
I moved my weekly newsletter to the Substack platform because it would be a better platform to facilitate growth. This platform allows for easier sharing, commenting and liking.
I’m grateful for the few thousand people who have subscribed and read this each week. But if I’m being honest, I’d love that number to be ten times that amount or more.
I very seldom ask anyone directly to do anything to help this newsletter grow. Instead, I have sometimes included a small note at the bottom in italics replete with passive language about “if you find value, please consider sharing.”
I haven’t been more direct in my requests out of fear that you, the reader, might take offense. Maybe even unsubscribe.
This week, I’ll try something different. I’m asking you directly and unequivocally to please share, like or comment on this post.
Yes it did hurt a little to ask, but feeling comfortable asking people to share or contribute to our journey, goals and dreams really shouldn’t.
In fact, I believe people by and large love to help each other. Doing so provides more meaning and purpose to our lives.
We can’t control the actions of others – only our own. If our intentions are pure, kind and generous and we put those types of requests in the world, more often than not they will be received similarly.
Will every ask be granted? Of course not. Caulfield did write Stradlater’s essay – poorly I might add. The guidance counselor did not offer any alternatives to my daughter. Most readers will not share or like this post.
But that’s not the point. The point is learning to put ourselves out there more often. To be direct and confident. Realizing that by asking someone to do something with or for us is inherently valuable – regardless of outcome. We are strengthening our social fabric. By making asking hurt less we will help ourselves and others more.
So if there is anything I can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to ask. Importantly don’t hesitate to ask others either. We are all standing by to help.