It feels good to use something I’ve learned to help someone else. And if they ask me for my advice, and I’m able to assist them, I’m usually grateful for the opportunity. But how often do I extend this same opportunity the other way? How often do I give others a chance to contribute or share their knowledge?
When I have a question, I often instinctively go to the Internet. I do an online search. And since there’s so much information out there, I usually find something related to what I want to learn. And if I wanted to, I could probably stop right there and never consult with people I actually know. But if I did that, I’d also be missing out on a couple benefits.
First, those we know can provide additional perspective. In searching online, I may find a dozen different opinions, and having a trusted friend can help me filter through them. If I’ve already done a little research, they may confirm my initial findings. They may also have some extra, real-world tips they’ve discovered; or they may have some pointers on what NOT to do; or they may provide an alternative solution worth consideration.
Second, and more importantly, asking gives the other person a chance to contribute. It provides them an opportunity to share what they’ve learned. And if they’re like most people, they’ll probably feel good about having a chance to be helpful. Asking them isn’t just about getting a better answer—although it may lead to that. It’s also about involving them in our lives. It’s giving them the gift of being included.
We all have a wealth of experiences in our lives. And if asked, we could provide lessons from those experiences that would be helpful to others. Sometimes it might be identifying things that worked well or things that didn’t work well. And other times it will be reassuring them that what they’re experiencing is normal. We’ve been through something similar, and they’ll be able to make it through too.
Providing others with the same kind of opportunity to share doesn’t mean indiscriminately asking everyone about everything. But it does mean realizing that asking others for input can be about far more than only getting better answers. It can also be a chance to nurture the relationships we’ve already established. It can give others the chance to be involved in our lives. And regardless of whether we end up with new or better information, we’re still giving them the gift of being asked—a gift that most people will appreciate.