“When we really see each other, we want to help each other.” Amanda Palmer
Asking for help can be one of the biggest challenges for individuals. Whether building a business, looking for the solution to a problem or chasing a new position to drive our career forward, many of us struggle when it comes to turning to others for support.
We feel as though we are going to become a burden by asking for help, or worry that we’ll be highlighting a vulnerability that we’d rather keep in the dark.
Yet people enjoy helping others, particularly those who they like and trust. When a relationship is strong people are more likely to take pleasure from being able to support the other, rather than judge them for asking. Despite this knowledge, society seems to look down on the act of asking and make people feel uncomfortable about doing so.
Which makes the following video, kindly sent to me by Jackie Barrie, quite fascinating. From busking for loose change as a ‘Living Statue’ on the street, through tweeting requests to sleep on the couches of strangers to raising over $1m dollars in a crowdfunding campaign, Amanda Palmer has proven to be very successful at asking for help.
In this TED Talk, Amanda shares her experiences and why she feels that the people around her are so happy to contribute:
One thing jumps out for me above anything else in this talk. And that is the connection Amanda makes with her network, whether it is the eye contact she made as a living statue with people on the street or the trust she puts in her audience by offering her body as their canvas.
“My eyes would say, ‘Thank you, I see you’.
And their eyes would say, ‘Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.'”
Amanda shares with us the bafflement experienced by people trying to understand how she could raise a record sum through her crowdfunding efforts for her band, at a time when people have stopped paying for music.
The answer, as shared here, is in the connection…and in the disconnect.
Her record company are disconnected. They have no connection with Amanda, with her band or with her audience. And her audience respond by not caring about the record company. They are happy to pay for Amanda’s music, but they pay her direct rather than through the traditional purchase of an album.
Amanda and her band are, however, completely connected to their audience. They engage with them on social media. They sleep on their sofas and on their floors. They stay behind after concerts and talk to them. And then, when they ask for help, their audience is only too happy to respond, giving far more than even asked for.
“Through the very act of asking people I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.”
I think Amanda underplays one key element in this statement – the relationships she has built with her fan base over time. She has displayed honesty and openness in her relationship with them from the beginning. Sharing more than just news of their latest tour dates or video on Twitter and blogs but their “fears, hangovers, mistakes”. She has build a level of trust in them that allows her to believe they won’t drop her to the floor when she crowdsurfs and to literally expose herself to them as a blank canvas in Berlin.
She doesn’t just ask people who are strangers, she asks the people she trusts, the people she has shared with, the people she has let into her life.
Are you really connecting with the people in your life? I don’t mean exchanging ‘clicks’ to add each other to your respective networks on LinkedIn or Facebook, but creating meaningful interactions. Are you sharing your life, your fears and your hangovers? Or are you drawing a strict line between your business and social lives?
Who do you feel most comfortable asking for help? And who would you most happily lend your support to? When I consider those questions I know that I would be far more likely to want to support people I consider as friends, rather than business acquaintances.
I hear a lot of people denigrate the modern culture of soul bearing and life sharing ushered in by social media. But if you go to the other extreme and hide behind a wall of secrecy, are you missing out? By keeping a purely ‘professional’ veneer in front of your network are you creating a disconnect, and a lower likelihood of people being willing to help you?
“When we really see each other, we want to help each other.” Stop hiding and start asking for help.
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