11 Chapters
Medium 9781576754511

Chapter 2: Why We Don’t Ask–Really

Klaver, M. Nora Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.
Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
Marie Curie

We do not ask for help because we are afraid. Fear is what stops us from looking someone in the eye, admitting a need, and saying the words, “I need your help.”

Anthropologists describe fear as a natural, protective response to potentially dangerous stimuli. Fear kept our ancestors from venturing into caves populated by people-eating lions. Nowadays, it keeps us from venturing into equally dangerous dark alleys. This protective quality of fear is instinctual. The little hairs stand up on our necks and our eyes widen in anticipation of the risk ahead. This primal fear keeps us safe from harm and protects us from the very real and imminent perils that lie ahead.

We have come far from those days of the cave. For most of us, primal fear lies dormant. Metus gravis, or grave fear, is relatively rare. Living lives of comparative safety, few of us experience the cringing terror that accompanies urgent life or death situations. When we do, we rarely think twice about asking—no, screaming—for the help we need. Our instincts kick in and we react immediately to save ourselves. In those situations, the dread of asking for help usually pales in comparison to the heavy fear we feel if our lives are in danger.

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Step 7: Say Thanks

Klaver, M. Nora Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.
The Hausa of Nigeria

Congratulations! You’ve reached the final step in the Mayday! process! Look at all you’ve learned. You now understand the temporary power that fear has over you and the lies that it tells. You realize the importance of getting clear on what you need, and at the same time, you know it is equally important to be open to other suggestions. The magic embedded in the applied virtues of self-compassion, faith, and gratitude have seen you through. These “emotions on steroids” have changed your physical presence and your words, so your mayday calls become strong, with dignity and self-respect. Along the way, you picked up some practical tips on who, when, and how to ask. Listening differently, you have heard the hidden emotional messages underlying your helpmate’s response. The final step, of course, is to say thank-you.


Just as you learned to be clear in your requests for assistance, it’s equally important to be obvious in your gratitude. Say thank-you openly and loud enough so your partner can hear.

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Step 6: Listen Differently

Klaver, M. Nora Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


There was a definite process by which one made
people into friends, and it involved talking to them
and listening to them for hours at a time.
Dame Rebecca West

You’ve prepared, you’ve empowered yourself, and you’ve voiced your mayday call. Supported by self-compassion, faith, and gratitude, all you can do now is listen.

The two anchoring principles of the Mayday! process both deal with emotions. The first is that emotions drive action and language. The second is that powerful emotional states are required to overcome our fear of asking for help. It’s not a surprise then, that listening differently requires us to attend to the hidden emotional messages being conveyed. Step 6 is no longer about you and your needs. This step requires you to focus on your helpmate.


Consider what you do when you direct your mayday call to a specific individual. You ask him to step into your life and give of his talents and skills to make your existence better. If he agrees, your helpmate sacrifices something, even if it is just energy, to meet your need. The very least you can do is to listen to, and not just hear, what he has to say.

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Chapter 4: Anchoring Yourself

Klaver, M. Nora Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Great necessities call out great virtues.
Abigail Adams

Amy loved her father dearly. Aron had always been her greatest supporter, cheering her on when she ran for class president and comforting her after her divorce. He had been both mother and father to her ever since Amy’s mother passed away decades before. And now, Amy had the chance to repay him (as if that’s even possible) for all his kindness, generosity, and love. Aron had Alzheimer’s disease and Amy was his caregiver.

At first it had been painful to watch the man she most admired disappear into the illness. She secretly wept when she had to remind him what spackle was and how to use it. “He had practically built the family house with his own two hands and now he couldn’t remember spackle.” She cried. There were also frustrating times when Aron forgot to meet her as planned or became lost along the way. Most difficult of all was watching her father shrink before her eyes. The disease had made him small and frail.

A day nurse was hired to care for him while she was at work, and at night, Amy would return home to fix and feed him dinner. Afterward, she would help him to his chair. Once he was comfortable, she’d put on some music. If Aron was in a quiet mood, she might be able to do a little reading. But if he was talkative, she would listen to him as he relived a memory from his past. Sometimes, he would ask Amy where her mother was. The first few times he did this, she would gently remind him that his wife had passed many years before. It would upset him to hear, all over again, that she was gone. Eventually, Amy learned to just say that her mother had gone out to do some shopping. Aron would be satisfied with this and within a few moments would have forgotten all about his question.

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Chapter 1: Why We Don't Ask

Klaver, M. Nora Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same
level of thinking we were at when we created them.
Albert Einstein

Asking for help is a universally dreaded endeavor. We often choose instead to continue on alone, struggling valiantly and often unnecessarily with day-to-day burdens or even with crises, convinced that asking for help would exact an emotional price too high to bear. Nonetheless, in a world where people are living longer than ever before and may need ever more support over time, reliance on others has become increasingly necessary. It is time that the universal signal of mayday is sent.

No one is immune from need—not CEOs, not the cleaning staff, not store owners nor the store clerks. Grandparents, parents, and children all require a boost at some point. Team leaders and teammates, coaches and players, teachers and students, presidents and citizens all must, at some time, ask for aid.

Yet so many of us resist. One can’t help but wonder, if we all experience need, why it is so hard to ask for another’s help in satisfying that need. What parents wouldn’t want their child to come to them with a problem needing resolution? What loving spouse wouldn’t want to be called upon to support her partner? What leader would prefer to be kept in the dark if a team member needed help? There comes a time in everyone’s life where we can’t move forward unless we rely on others. The people who know and love us want us to ask. Yet we ignore our need. We pretend that we’ll get through on our own, and in the process, deny the frail reality of our humanity.

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