Awkward things.

Asking is an Art

on February 24, 2016


This post originally appeared on

No matter how much of a badass you are, at some point in your life you are going to have to ask for something. It might be something small and stupid, like a piece of gum, or it might be something big, something life-shatteringly, heart-flutteringly, floor-crawlingly important, like a phone number. Either way, it can be a pain in the ass to put yourself in that position. But it doesn’t have to be.

Amanda Palmer, the queen of badassery herself, has just published her self-helpography ‘The Art of Asking’, and it reads like a how-to of getting exactly what you want. I definitely suggest you check it out yourself, but here are a few things it taught me:

  1. It’s OK to ask.

Yep, you’re allowed, and the best thing is, unless you’re asking someone dangerous for something inadvisable, it probably won’t kill you. You can’t keep building it up into this massive event, when really all you need is one quick question and, BOOM, you’re done. Finito. Voilà. And other foreign words. Chances are that the person you’re asking will say yes. Maybe they’ll say no. Either way, the world keeps turning, you keep breathing and life keeps moving. You’ll never know if you don’t take a deep breath and spit it out.

  1. Sometimes you don’t NEED to ask.

A lot of the time, I find myself nervously asking people permission to just, I don’t know, be myself. But I’ve had that permission my whole life and I usually don’t wonder where my certificate is. Like, am I allowed to be this me? Is it OK? The answer is yes, all of the yes. You are allowed to be who you are, but you don’t need my permission. You are a grown-ass woman (or man. Hey guys!) and you can do whatever the hell you want, whenever the hell you want, unless it constitutes a crime, and even then, you can just close your curtains and lie low, no apology needed. You do you and I’ll do me and that’s all fine and dandy.

  1. Sometimes you’re standing in your own way.

You know the voice in your head that knows all the words that sting, all the memories that make you want to jump off something high, and all the right spots to prick you just to watch you bleed? Yeah. That voice is a dick. Most of the time it isn’t your sane, reasonable, epic, brainy brain that’s telling you that you’re not worth it, it’s The Voice. And clearly The Voice knows screw all, or it wouldn’t be telling you how much you suck. The Voice wasn’t watching when you graduated, or when you got promoted, or when that dude checked you out. The Voice didn’t read that letter from Mensa, or your recently published article or that letter from the people who love you. So obviously The Voice needs to skip out of your life and along to the opticians, because you’ve got shit to do.

  1. You shouldn’t feel guilty for what people are willing to give you.

You are not a fraud because you grabbed someone’s hand on the way up. It may sound crazy, but people do actually WANT to help you. Think about it. How great does it feel when you do someone a favour? When someone gets somewhere with your help, it’s like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. No-one is an island because being an island would suck. It’s lonely and not to mention impossible to do everything in a vacuum. It’s ok to ask and it’s ok to take, but it’s not ok to beat yourself up about it.

  1. Most people are only after one thing.

No, get your mind out of the gutter, at least for a moment, and then you can stick it back in again. A lot of the time when we’re asking for something, what we’re actually asking for is love. There’s not enough of it hanging around and waiting to be grabbed, so sometimes asking is the only way to get it. We all want to be accepted and we all want to be liked, but sometimes, for whatever reason, we can’t see the evidence. So we ask for a hug, for a ride, for them to stay the night. Do you like me? Do you want me? Do you love me? We ask the question in such simply worded, convoluted ways and hope to God that the answer is yes.

  1. Sometimes the answer is no…

…And that’s OK. Life is like a box of chocolates, after all, and sometimes you’ll get caramel and sometimes you’ll get rhubarb, and sometimes you’ll get praline and die because you’re allergic to nuts. It sucks, but it’s a ride, right? It’s an unconditional relationship and if there wasn’t even the slightest chance of being shot out of the sky, it wouldn’t mean as much. Let’s look at it this way: If there was no chance of a no, the yes would mean nothing. It’s only a risk because the answer’s not certain, and the risk makes it worth the question, otherwise you might as well be asking a tree for a hug. Don’t ask, just hug. The tree’s cool whatever.

  1. There is a massive difference between asking and begging.

When Amanda asked her fans for help, the best comment on the difference between asking and begging was this: “Asking is like courtship; begging, you are already naked and panting.” And that image, gross as it may be to those of us with overactive imaginations, totally works. There’s nothing icky about asking. They could say no, they could say yes. Hakuna matata. Begging implies arms wrapped around legs whilst Adele plays in the background and everyone is crying. Not good. When you ask for something, it needs to be able to go either way, or you’re verging cliff-close to begging, and the no will make you both feel bad.

  1. Asking is an art.

Anything that’s worth something is hard. It’s the fight that adds value to the prize. But while it might be difficult, it’s light years from impossible, and, like all the things, the more you do it, the easier it gets. So what’s the solution? Practice. Ask. A tampon, a ride, a hundred dollars, their hand in marriage. Make it a daily task to ask for something. It doesn’t have to be big, especially not to start with. How hard is it to ask to borrow a pen? Exactly. Sometimes you will hit a wall and it will take a while to clamber over it, but you will, I promise. And pretty soon you’ll be in the International Space Station or the White House and you’ll wonder why you never asked before.

So what’s your hardest ask, and was it worth it?


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