I want to share a pet peeve of mine: when I listen to people call in to one of my favorite radio hosts, so many of them say, “I have a question for you,” or “Here’s my question…” and then they don’t ask a question! They tell a story.
Maybe there’s something slippery about the curvy question mark. Either we put it on the end of what should be statements, or we leave it out altogether and tell ourselves we’re being clear in our requests.
A friend shared recently that he was upset about having to clear his belongings out of his basement to make room for his wife’s things.
“Did you ask her to consider a different solution?” I said.
“Well, I told her that I was upset,” he answered.
Uh….not the same thing.
But we all do this. For most of us, it’s hard enough to share feelings of disappointment, anger, or dissatisfaction. To have to go one step further and directly ask for what we want is a lot of work. And really, shouldn’t the people who love us just know, without us having to say anything?
We expect mind-readers to save us from asking. Or we complain and think that’s sufficient. This is my specialty, and what I’ve learned is that complaining is my inner guidance system’s way of telling me to speak up.
Last week, for example, I was feeling discouraged about how difficult it can be to meet new people. I found myself having a very whiny inner dialogue: It’s so isolating working at home. I could go to a coffee shop but people are glued to their computers. No one is friendly anymore. Being friendly is just too hard. Blah blah blah.
Luckily I recognized that there was a request buried under all those complaints, and I had not bothered to articulate it.
So I said, “God, I would like an encouraging encounter. Something to restore my faith and make me feel connected.”
The next day I was ordering my coffee at Starbucks and the barista squinted at me. “You look so familiar,” he said. I couldn’t place him, but then he practically shouted my name and I remembered; twelve years ago he owned a Mailboxes, Etc. store that I frequented, and we had daily, friendly contact. As we chatted it felt like I’d seen him only yesterday. It was even better than meeting someone new.
It’s all there for the asking.
And for the asking, by the way, is an idiom defined as “without significant effort or cost.”
So if you want to put your effort somewhere, put it into kicking your asks up a notch. Grab that question mark by its tail and use it for your good. It’s the best way to make a statement.