Why It Can Be Difficult to Ask

Here are some examples of well-worn statements that underscore the culture-wide bias we have against asking. . .

  • If we are in a jam:  “I’ll never ask you for anything ever again. . .”  or, “I wouldn’t ask you, but. . .”
  • If we are uncomfortable:  “He didn’t bring it up, so I didn’t ask him. . .”
  • If we are worried that we might cross a social boundary:  “I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to appear nosey. . .”
  • If we might appear stupid:  “I won’t ask the teacher in front of the rest of the class. . .”

The concept of asking for help, for assistance, for money, for most anything, can be viewed as a negative experience.  Two observations about the above statements (and other examples of when and why we decide not to ask questions):

  1. One reason we decide not to ask is based on our own negative feelings related to the experience;
  2. Another reason we decide not to ask is based on the negative reaction we perceive might come from others.

So, while there is a rather strong bias against asking built into our shared experience, if we substitute the word “invite” for “ask” we get a very different response.  “Inviting” people is perceived more positively.  It is less pointed and the chance of it being viewed as off-putting is reduced.  It is more embracing and welcoming.

When you work with volunteers, Board members, perhaps even advancement officers on your team who might struggle from time to time with “asking” others for gifts, encourage them to “invite” donors to join your cause or fulfill your vision.  It’s not nearly as difficult to “invite” someone as it can be to “ask” them.


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