The Value of Asking

Courtesy of Fruitfulista

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." - Matthew 7:7

Quoting from the bible, asking has always been one of the core tenets of success. Time and time again, the people who make it a point to ask (and ask regularly) are the ones who tend to do better in almost any field in life - romance, school, work, social circles, and of course spirituality.

While most of us are aware of this universal precept, few apply it on a daily basis. After all, it does take courage and confidence to make a request or ask a question in any social or professional context. A whole string of "What ifs" may beset us, and these include the following:

1) What if I end up looking stupid or ignorant?

2) What if he or she rejects my request?

3) What if I fumble over my words and say the wrong things?

4) What if I am not loud/clear/precise enough in my request, and end up being misunderstood?

5) What if my friends/colleagues/family members laugh at me?

Well, consider the following:

1) Most of us are so busy running our own lives and thinking of our needs that we don't naturally consider what others may need or want. There is just too much information overloading our overworked sensory and neural circuits. This is especially true for people in the upper echelons of leadership.

2) Contrary to popular belief, human beings - well at least 99.99% of us anyway - are not psychic. Or at least, we don't quieten our senses sufficiently to be able to intuit latent needs.

3) Asking politely and confidently helps you to make a mark. It differentiates run-of-the-mill students from the top performers. It also allows you to stand out from the crowd of "me-too" masses, who prefer to blend into the background and lead quiet and uneventful lives.

4) Perhaps the most important question you need to ask yourself is this - what is the worst possible thing that can happen to you? Will you lose that BFF, job or social standing?

(If your relationship, career or reputation can be so easily destroyed by a genuine heartfelt request, your problems are probably deeper than what this blog post can assist you with!)

Naturally, there is a right and wrong way to ask questions.

In an honest, open and mutually supportive relationship, questions should be asked to enlighten oneself or to further a cause. This could be as minor as requests for answers (can you help me to solve this math problem?), small favours (could you help me pick up a carton of milk at the supermarket?) to formal pitches for funds (we need $5 million for this project, and here are the reasons why).

Good questions are also attempts to move the other party towards a particular position. For example, a mentor or a counsellor may ask a client intimate questions on his or her background with the intention of motivating him or her towards a more positive frame of mind. Similarly, an employee in a company may ask a boss a question which illuminates an important dimension of a project.

On the flip side, one shouldn't ask questions to demean, demotivate or destroy another person. The days of the Spanish Inquisition are long over.

Unless you are lawyer or prosecutor in a court of law, you shouldn't be using questions to bring disrepute to the other person.

Requests should also be somewhat reasonable when weighted against one's existing "emotional bank account" and standing with the other party. For instance, if you've produced excellent results all these years, your request for a promotion is more likely to be agreed upon than somebody who idled his years away.

Starting today, let us make it a positive habit to ask meaningful, genuine and heartfelt questions. You'll be surprised at what the outcomes may be.

PS - This post is as much as reminder for myself (I'm a naturally shy person, really) as it is for all of you!

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