Just Ask, What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

Secrets, Rumr, Whisper – oh Silicon Valley how I love the life lessons you provide in the quest for the next multi-billion dollar payout on a tool that does little to nothing to help us be better humans. Today the popular app to launch is “anonymish” social networking. The tools we have today that require we own our identity (or at least make some effort to pretend to be someone else) have become dated and stifling, what we need, developers have determined, is a tool where we don’t have to take responsibility for the things we say, our feelings, or our desires. Perfect, more ways to be functionally passive-aggressive and build negative feelings because people don’t intuit what you want, what you need, or who you really are. I see a lot of downside apart from the rather obvious use these new tools will get in bullying, harassment and gossip mongering.

For a very long time, most of my adult life in fact I have had a hard time asking for both what I want and what I need. There are a lot of reasons for this, there are a lot of reasons why this is true for many of us, and we don’t need to dig into the baggage of childhood experiences here to recognize that it is something a lot of people struggle with. There is a deep fear in many of us that prevents asking directly for something we want from another person, the fear is that we won’t get it and then what? If I ask my husband to take care of me when I’m sick the worst-case scenario response would be, “absolutely not because I don’t love you, I don’t care about you and I never did.” That would feel awful, but I would have a lot more information about the person I have chosen to share my life with, information that might be helpful to me in deciding what I really want in my life.

If you never tell people what you need, if you never share who you are then ultimately we create a society based on assumptions. We all know that cute little quip about making assumptions, but it’s true: when we act or interact based on a guess about other people we deny ourselves and our companions the opportunity to genuinely know one another. Yes, we protect ourselves from what could potentially be painful because if we never directly say what we want there is no chance that we can be directly disappointed. But, there is also a much lower chance that we get what it is that we want, and we end up full of resentment and disappointment anyway.

One of the founders of Secret is quoted saying that the app is great because it makes you a better person and the example he gives is how before Valentine’s Day someone posted “romance me.” He thought it was his girlfriend so he went ahead and ordered flowers. The claim is that without the anonymity of the crowd and the access to this tool whoever posted that desire would not have declared it, and he would not have taken it as a nudge to do something romantic. I’m not buying what they are selling, literally or figuratively!

What if you actually say to your partner: I am a person that likes romance, do something romantic for me on this day! It is entirely possible that you won’t get what you want, that’s true even if you post it as an anonymous thought. I believe you have a much better chance of getting what you want if you ask for it directly and stay away from playing games. How effective is it to go to the grocery store and stand around the cashier dropping hints about how much you like sandwiches? I don’t think it will get you a sandwich. Or the next time you go to a restaurant instead of ordering when asked what you will have, say to the waiter, “figure it out based on what you think you know about me.” These are ridiculous ideas and so is the notion that you can get what you want by anonymously hinting in a social app and hoping that your partner figures it out.

When you ask for what you want the absolute worst-case scenario every time is that you don’t get it. That’s it. The bonus is you learn something about the person you are asking it of, and the real gift is that you have enough respect for yourself to be honest about what it is that you want!

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