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Dear Friends,

I will start this letter with a confession and an apology. The idea I write about below — to ask a person not a search engine — is not my idea. I came across it one or two times a couple of months ago but I can't remember where. Obviously I'm going to have to get better at keeping track of my sources and inspirations.

So I apologize to all of you for not linking to the original articles, and to the authors of those articles for not giving them credit. Hopefully I've managed to come up with a new angle and didn't just end up typing out someone else's ideas! Read on and see what you think.

Phone a Friend

Back when I worked in software development there was a belief that asking questions was lazy. It was incumbent on the person with the question to do their research — lots of reseach — before asking someone else about something. No-one was more scorned than a new hire who asked too many questions, or asked the same question more than once.

Now we are all isolated in our houses but connected to the Internet, which has endless answers — how to set up a Minecraft server, what to do with sourdough starter, how to look good in video meetings. It's a lot easier to look something up than it is to ask someone.

And, I mean, fair enough, I guess. There is something to be said for self-sufficiency and initiative, in the office or in isolation. But when you look up an answer instead of asking a person, you miss so much.

You miss the opportunity to know someone better, and to be known yourself. Whether it's Ted down the hall or your granny, asking a question tells the other person a little bit about you, and their answer tells you a little bit about them. Maybe Ted needs a lot of whiteboard to explain stuff but he's really good at it, and your granny has actually never made a butter tart in her life.

You miss the opportunity to give the gift of helping. People generally love to help, to explain, to teach. (If someone has only recently learned what you're asking about, getting a chance to explain it will help cement their learning — you're doing them a favour!) Plus you create a reciprocal tension; you put yourself in their debt, which provides an opportunity for them to ask you for something in the future, further strengthening your relationship.

You also strengthen your relationship by trusting the other person with your vulnerability. (And if they're an ass about it — well, there's valuable learning there, too.) There's a weird kind of power in having the humility to ask for help — it suggests that you're confident in your knowledge and your lack of knowledge, and that you don't fear judgement (whether that's entirely true or not)

You miss the opportunity to learn bonus stuff, context that a search engine will never give you because it don't know you might be interested. Maybe your granny will tell you about your great-aunt winning the county fair butter tart contest three years in a row. Ted might mention that they actually implemented a new system for that thing six months before you started; it was Lin's idea and Sohail hates it. (That explains the weird tension when it comes up in meetings.)

And finally, you miss the opportunity to normalize asking for help. When you ask for help, it creates an opening for someone else to ask for help. It gives people permission to connect. So next time you find yourself in the search bar of your browser, consider if you could ask a person instead.

What's New

I had a bunch of conversations with a bunch of people since the beginning of the year which inspired me to write more. So I've started writing little essays to post on Medium and LinkedIn, both to let the world know who I am and to try to figure out what my voice and pitch is as a coach. I also hope to become a better (or at least faster) writer.

So far no-one has taken me up on my chat/free coaching thing, possibly because it's too vague, or they fear a sales pitch. Which is fair enough. But the fact that people won't even take me up on a free coaching session says a lot about how much work I need to do in explaining the value of coaching. Anyway, it's still open if you want to put yourself in my calendar for a coffee chat.

Fun and Interesting

  • None of us have to go directly into resilience. Candice Marie Benbow writes about the loss of the year that we hoped we would have. You’re Allowed to Grieve the Year That Would’ve Been [medium.com]
  • It is an emotional risk to live for a moment in the abyss of someone else’s world. Jeremy D. Larson writes about the neurology of why it's hard to listen to new music, and why it's important to do so. Why Do We Even Listen to New Music? [pitchfork.com]
  • I just finished Dead Mom Walking by Rachel Matlow. It's funny, dark, and oddly easy to read for a book about death. If you live in Toronto, Flying Books will deliver it to your house.

Thank you for reading this far!

If you like what you read, hit reply and let me know, or forward it and let someone else know. If you have questions or comments, hit reply and let me know. If you have seen something interesting out there, hit reply and let me know. Are you seeing a trend here? If so... hit reply and let me know! I look forward to hearing from you. ❤️

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Amy Rhoda Brown Coaching
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Copyright © 2020 Amy Rhoda Brown Coaching, All rights reserved.


I live and work on land which for thousands of years has been part of the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe and the Huron-Wendat. Today, this meeting place is still home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island, and I am glad to be able to live and work here.

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