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It’s OK to Ask

by Beth on September 9th, 2011

I was raised in the South where we were taught that it’s not nice to ask for things. If I got thirsty while playing with my friends in the neighborhood I was supposed to go home to get a glass of water. Goodness knows the neighbors didn’t need extra kids trampling through their houses and dirtying up their glasses.

It seems like a bit of a contradiction, since Southerners are famous for their hospitality. I’m sure the neighbors wouldn’t have minded a bit, but Southerners are also very concerned about not “putting someone out” by causing them extra effort, just as we know how important it is not to “outstay our welcome”.

I do think it’s important to know when to go home, but I have changed my opinion about asking. I think it’s OK to ask.

Asking gives people the opportunity to experience the joy of giving. Helping others is one of the best ways to increase our happiness. For those of us who feel guilty asking for help, maybe we should change the way we think about it. When we ask people for an occasional favor we might actually be boosting their happiness.

In many cases we need to ask in order to get what we need. It is hard to serve others if your own needs aren’t satisfied. You know the “put your oxygen mask on first” idea. I know that I am a better mother and a better wife when I get the help I need. But often we make the mistake of assuming that people know what we need. In most cases they don’t. We have to ask!

Asking is even more important if you are a woman. Studies show that one of the reasons women earn less than men is that they don’t ask for higher salaries like men do. Women are less likely to ask for plum assignments, for promotions, even for help at home. We have been socialized to think that nice girls don’t ask. That makes it a double whammy for Southern girls!

So go ahead and ask. You aren’t putting someone out, you are simply letting them know what you need and you are giving them the opportunity to help. Just don’t forget to say “please”!


  1. Great blog Beth.

    In 25+ years driving I have yet to invest in AAA roadside help. Occasonally I read their pitch about always having a way to get a jump start or change a flat or get home if my car won’t start and I always think to myself….”isn’t that why I have friends.” I haven’t yet lost one friend because I asked for help and I have made new ones by asking for help.

    Of course I would help out a friend in a similar situation. And you know what I have almost always heard…. ” that happened to me one time when it/I was……” and I get to learn something new about that friend. The relationship is stronger now too due to sharing another common experience. And, over the years I’ve undoubtedly had more fun spending money on dinner or drinks with these friends rather than sending it to AAA!

  2. Beth permalink

    Thanks, Keith! I love that you brought in the fact that asking can strengthen relationships as well. So true!

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