Monday, March 4, 2019

The Art of Asking in the Age of the Internet

I always like to say, “If you don’t ask, the answer is already no.” However, our current Internet climate makes it easier than ever for people to click the keys with a quick ‘ask’ without observing any of the polite rules of communication.

I work as a professional storyteller but I also love to research stories and share them on my blog. I am happy to help when a colleague asks for assistance and I receive requests on a regular basis. However, there is an art to asking for help and below I share two distinctly different approaches.

A few months ago I received an instant message from a colleague, which offered no salutation, they didn't even address me by my name. This is not someone I communicate with on a consistent basis, nor have I seen them for over a decade, so the abrupt ‘ask’ felt more like a demand. It took me less than a minute to Google the requested information, with a number of sites appearing on the first Google page. This immediately told me they didn’t conduct any research at all before asking me to do their work. I considered carefully if I would even respond but in the end I did.

Juxtapose that with another message I received last week from a colleague I have never met but know through our Facebook connection.  Storyteller Janet Glantz sent me the following email, which I share here with her permission.

“Hi Karen,

First of all kudos for everything that you do to promote storytelling in all its forms.  I have volunteered to do some Preschool story times for our local library.  My first one is close to St. Patrick's Day.  I looked on your site, but couldn't find the activities, songs, rhymes etc. for St. Patrick's Day.  Do you have any suggestions? I will be going to Sharing the Fire and am looking forward to meeting you face-to-face. 

Kindest Regards,
Janet Glantz

What did I love about this virtual interaction?
  • She begins with an immediate ‘thanks’ before her request.
  • She tried to find the information herself before contacting me.
  • She ends with mentioning an opportunity when we can personally meet outside of the virtual world.

I bet you can guess how eager I was to help her. I knew exactly where the information was on my blog and sent it to her immediately. I look forward to meeting her at the end of this month.

The myriad of instant communication tools we have at our fingertips can be a blessing but because facial expression, vocal intonation, and body language are missing your request for help can easily be misunderstood as a demand. The next time you reach out to a colleague make sure you take a moment to interact with them as if you were face-to-face, not separated by a computer screen. Trust me, those few extra words will be noticed and appreciated across the virtual divide and you are likely to receive the reply, “I’m happy to help” in return.

Karen Chace 2019 ©
This blog post was researched and compiled by Karen Chace. Permission for private use is granted. Distribution, either electronically or on paper is prohibited without my expressed written permission. For permission please contact me at Of course, if you wish to link to my blog via your website, blog, newsletter, Facebook page or Twitter please feel free to do so; I greatly appreciate your support and personal integrity.