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May I ask?

I have just finished reading a great book from my favorite artist and a famous rockstar, Amanda Palmer. The book is apparently about art but not only about music. It is about the art of asking which is also the title of the book. Asking for a favour, for help, for anything. But not begging! Asking as expression of love, asking as „the fundamental building block of any relationship“.

Already after first few pages I surprisingly realized that the „art of asking“ approach that Amanda introduces contradicts something that is deeply rooted in my habits and manners coming out of my family of origin culture.

I still remember my father´s hand on my mother´s shoulder as he tried to stop her in telling me what should I do instead of lying on a couch.

The hand said: „Let him figure out himself. He HAS TO to know what NEEDS to be done. We DON´T NEED TO ASK him.“ He didn´t want to hurt me. He probably genuinely tried to help me become a responsible citizen who is aware of his duties, obligations and comitments and who will fulfill them without having to be asked.

I don´t know if his ambition turned out well. But unfortunately I learnt something else from these interactions. I learnt that asking is not good. If I am asked, it means that I did not recognize that I should have done something. It means that I failed. And conversely, I avoided to ask for help because I did not want to embarass people by indicating that they may have failed.

But Amanda turns this upside down. „Asking is loving and trusting“ she claims. If you ask, you let people help you and if they are willing to help you (no matter if they actually can), they love you and trust you. Simple as that.

What a different approach! What a relief not having to constantly check the facial, gestural and other non-verbal signs of the others in order to recognize what they want and need. Just ask. And let yourself be asked.

With this attitude, Amanda managed something unimaginable in the music industry. Thanks to her special relationship with her fanbase, she is able to make wonderful music, shows, videoclips without big labels and companies. She uses Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter and other platforms extensively, and not only for asking. She shares, responds, gives, tells jokes, stories, sends love. When she asked for support to release her album "Theatre Is Evil", she raised nearly $1.2 million via Kickstarter from nearly 25,000 fans who pre-ordered the album.

The generation of my parents was raised in a Soviet-block atmosphere of fear where many things was not talked openly and most of their life they were treated with an attitude that was cold as winter in Moscow. Maybe part of my persistent post-teenage revolt againts this cold secretive culture is my inclination to collaborative-dialogical practices and to Open Dialogue.

I think that the art of asking was another piece of a puzzle in our postmodern, collaborative-dialogic culture. As Amanda writes in her book: "Asking is, at its core, collaboration." And she demonstrates it in the whole book with her house parties, couchsurfing, Kickstarter campaingns etc.

For example in psychotherapy, clients are those who ask us for help, but it doesn´t mean that we cannot also ask them for help. Because we need to know HOW can we help them. We need their help to help them. And by asking for the help, we do not do anything bad to them. On the contrary, we invite them to trusting and loving relationship that is the core of the therapeutic process.

My father always said „Easy to be said, hard to be done“ and I agree with him on that. I am afraid that it is going to be a long process for me to learn to ask. Old habits die hard, as Rolling Stones sing. Or, if we were to stick with Amanda Palmer and her original band Dresden Dolls, it is not easy to break the BAD HABITS. But hopefully I will at least stay on the track:-).

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