There’s a potential life-changing question at the end of this post.
There are any number of things my brain would be delighted to have me ask for if it was absolutely certain that the answer would be “Yes.” For example:
It would like me to ask my local truck dealer to pay me top dollar for a trade-in, discount a new, tricked out truck 50%, and give me a no-money-down, zero interest loan for 10 years.
It would secretly smile if I would ask my neighbor to let me put my trash in her garbage can each week that she puts it out to the curb half-full.
It would sing with glee if I would ask our local veterinarian only to charge us for procedures that actually produce what we’re paying her to produce (puppies).
It would be surprised beyond belief if I would ask my wife to make our relationship be more about me than it already is. 😉
All right, let’s stop with those four. For now.
Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Adrenal Glands
So, why don’t I ask for these pretty simple, straight-forward things? Because getting a “No” in response would generate a stress hormone adrenal response that would feel worse than the mostly neutral feelings I carry around when I don’t ask for them. It’s this anticipatory aversion response for many of us that makes it hard to even think up things to ask for. It’s like my brain censors my Asking Potential before requests can even surface into consciousness. This is Rejection Sensitivity.
Rejection Sensitivity, it turns out, is a real thing. Smart people actually study it, and they’ve given it a clinical name: Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. Dysphoria means “difficult to bear.” Psychiatrist William Dodson claims it’s neurologic and genetic. If it’s genetic that means it’s also likely to be … epigenetic. Which means it’s capable of being positively or negatively influenced by the people, places and things around us. Which is also one of the primary reasons brains were built – to learn to creatively navigate the everyday world.
Building the Asking Mushkle
Jia Jiang, a Chinese immigrant was inspired to grow his Asking Mushkle by deliberately going out and intentionally seeking rejection (a mushkle is how a four year old – who’s learning to become rejection sensitive – says the word “muscle”). Jiang set himself a goal to be rejected 100 times in 100 days. Interestingly, it was a lot harder to accomplish than he expected. Not only did it force him to think up strange and delightful things to ask for – permission to sit in a police squad car and pretend to drive it; knocking on a stranger’s door and asking to play soccer in their back yard – but he also found himself getting way more “Yes’s” than he ever expected. By Rejection No. 100 Jiang discovered that when your nervous system becomes practiced at it, it becomes harder and harder for a “No” to fire your adrenal glands’ stress launch codes.
Amanda Palmer, in her TED Talk: The Art of Asking, has devoted much of her life and career to creatively navigating Rejection Sensitivity. She has made a large part of her work “Asking Practice.”
For her, it began by standing silently on a plastic milk crate in a bridal gown with a hat for people to put money into on the ground in front of her. This “silent ask” would predictably produce $60 on Monday and $90 on Friday. Asking without using words is a brilliant way to begin taking small steps in managing Rejection Sensitivity. From there, as her dysphoria became increasingly easier to bear through practice, her neural network connectivity grew together with her creativity. Along with it grew her feelings of trust, care and connection to other people to the point where she was able to ask for $100,000 on a crowdfunding platform. And the crowd responded joyfully and generously with … 1.2 million dollars!
Talk the Walk
So, how am I going to begin building my Asking Mushkle? Well, like Amanda Palmer, I’m going to start small, with a “silent ask.” Right here, right now: please think of two or three friends who could greatly benefit from studying and developing this practice: Contemplative Collaboration. Since this is a majority of the people on the planet, it shouldn’t be difficult. Will you buy them the collection? If you do, I’ll mail it to them today in your name.
Next question: what small steps are YOU going to take to build your Asking Mushkle? Whatever you creatively orchestrate for yourself, will you drop me a note and let me know?