So today, I thought I’d share a long-standing theory of mine. As I sit here on my front porch acting as the dinner-buffet for every mosquito in the state of Virginia – I get to thinking about “The Obligation of the Ask”. A very ominous name for a very simple principle: There are certain things in this world, and they may change in your world, that when asked simply cannot be refused. A perfect example would be a piece of gum, but could just as easily apply to a cigarette, a soda, a ride somewhere in your oh-so-wonderful POS – generally something minor.
Simply by asking, the thoughtless requester is in a fashion, obligating you to say yes because, let’s face it – there really isn’t a good reason for saying “no”. Personal preferences be damned. The fact that you are saving that piece has no application here. The mere mention of dislike for the individual now sounds petty and pathetic. You cannot win! The only way out is to relinquish control and yield to the asker. Hence… “The Obligation of the Ask”.
Being on the receiving end makes it easy to see how annoying this can be to your fellow man. As the asker though, your small and simple request is no big deal – you could live without that gum, that soda, that ride to your ailing mother. However, woe betide anyone who would even think of refusing your request – they are the pickiest, meanest (in the scrooge sense of the word, not the loud uncle meaning of the word), most unreasonable individual to ever darken your doorstep!
Now – if you are of a personality where you don’t care what people think, have no concern for the pettiness of the refusal, are simply indifferent to the societal implications of saying “no” – then none of this really applies. You are free from the constraints of polite society and can fly free (and alone) on the winds of whim and fancy. Most of us aren’t. We need other people around us to like and respect us because inevitably we will at some point need to ask someone: “Can I have a piece of gum?”