So here's a pet peeve of mine. I like to listen to Hay House Radio, but inevitably, when callers say to my favorite radio host (Alan Cohen) "I have a question for you..." they never ask a question! Instead, they launch into a detailed story, while I wait and wait for the promised question.
Don't get me wrong. I love detailed stories. And maybe I'm being too hard on these poor callers. I just feel a delicious shiver of anticipation when I sense a question on the horizon, and then impatience when it never arrives.
Why do so many people (me included) get lost in our own clutter when we're looking for answers?
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 what we want, without us having to say anything?
We expect others to be mind-readers and spare us from having to ask. Or we complain and grouse and think that's a sufficient way to make a point. I've been guilty of this plenty of times, and what I've learned is that complaining is my inner guidance system's way of telling me to speak up.
And speaking up doesn't have to involve another person. Setting personal intentions or goals is another form of asking. Prayer is a form of asking. So is meditation.
Last week 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 out loud, "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 store that I frequented, and we had daily, friendly contact. Then he moved away. 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, and easiest, way to make a statement.
Tammy Letherer is a writing coach who loves to help others find their voice, whether in a blog or in a book. She is the author of one novel, Hello Loved Ones, and a memoir, Real Time Wreck: A Crash Course in Betrayal and Divorce, for which she is seeking agent representation. Contact her if you have a story that deserves to be shared. Follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.