Hello everyone and welcome to episode 98, The Myth of “It Never Hurts to Ask.”

In recent episodes we’ve been talking about the Ask component in our ORA principle of deepening our relationships Observe – Remember – Ask.

Last week’s episode, for example, was about that part of relational intelligence that knows how to respond when others tell you “No.”

In that episode, I suggested several gentle ways we can get what we want when told “no” by those with power over us.

I’ll have links to those recent episodes at the end of the show notes.

Today, in the context of the Ask component of ORA, I want to dispel the relational myth I used to be a strong proponent for, but no longer believe. Keep listening, because I bet many of you still believe this same myth I once believed. It's a myth that can harm your relationships.

The myth I’m referring to is the concept that it never hurts to ask. The fact is, sometimes it does hurt to ask.

Here’s why “it never hurts to ask” is a myth

In some cultures, asking personal questions is completely inappropriate. It’s an invasion of privacy. By asking personal questions in these kinds of societies will distance you from people.

Some people are reluctant to answer questions because:

  • They’re concerned the question asker may be  judging them, e.g., “Are you getting the Covid vaccine?”
  • Other times, a question asked may raise suspicions  the question asker will use whatever answer you give against you, e.g, “how much did you pay for that car you just bought?” There’s the fear your answer will elicit negative judgments about you
  • For a variety of reasons, some people don’t want to get too close to others
  • They are just very private people. It may be their personality, or how they were raised.
Unintended consequences of practicing “It never hurts to ask”

People will form opinions about you by the questions you ask. Which can help or hinder a relationship.

Some people may feel defensive or manipulated. Even violated. Or they may feel steered in a direction they may not want to go.

Guidelines for knowing when to practice “it never hurts to ask”

The most distant your relationship with someone, the freer you can live by it never hurts to ask. For example, the stories I shared about store clerks in previous episodes are about one-time transactions where the down-side risk of it never hurts to ask is minimal.

But the closer you are in a relationship, the more careful you have to be with it never hurts to ask.

We need to ASK ourselves how our question(s) may be perceived by others. What’s the potential downside? And what are the risks?

Examples of when it did hurt to ask

The IT guy I placed who wanted to attend a training workshop AFTER he gave notice he was taking a new job. Going to training workshops was really important to IT people. He thought it was okay to ask the employer he was leaving in two weeks if he could take the course, because after all, “It never hurts to ask.” Yes, it does. Because you may need him for a reference someday.

Story of the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, in Matthew 20:20-28

Her request/their request: to sit next to Jesus, one on his right, the other on his left, when he sits on his throne in his kingdom. Let’s see if asking that question hurt anything.

  • In NT days, where you sat in gatherings was really important
  • Seats were always assigned, never asked for. Their requests violated cultural norms
  • Their question alienated the other 10! Verse, 24 “They were indignant.”
  • Their question set up winners and losers
  • The other 10 were placed in a position subservient to James and John
  • Pride
  • Jesus goes on to use their request as a teachable moment in vs 25-28. Tells them they are to be different than the leaders of this world
  • That it is better to serve than to be served
  • “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave
  • For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
So what does all this mean for YOU?

What action can you take to in response to today’s program that will move the needle in making your relationships more joy-filled? Here are a few ideas:

Do some self-examination and ask YOURSELF a few questions before asking one of someone else

  1. What is my purpose in asking the question I’m thinking of asking.? What is my motive? Is it to feed my pride, like it was for James, John, and their mother?
  2. How will others perceive my question? How will it affect their view of me? Will I alienate people, like the other 10 disciples were alienated from James, John, and their mother?
  3. What does my question reveal about my character?
  4. How will I use the answer to my question?

Consider the timing of your question. For example, the timing was terrible for the IT guy I placed to ask his soon-to-be former employer to pay for his training, training the company would receive no benefit from.

The timing was also terrible for the sons of Zebedee and their mother to ask for a position of prominence right after Jesus tells his disciples about his betrayal, his sentence to die, his beating and crucifixion.

Don’t do what they did. Don’t be a mama’s boy.

Finally, rather than asking for something you desire, put yourself in a position where what you want is offered to you. That way, you will know it is from God, and not a product of your aggressiveness.

If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today's episode

Be careful what you ask. Consider the implications of your requests in light of the degree of closeness in your relationships. It may hurt to ask when your question puts a wedge between you and other people.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to john@caringforothers.org. I may share them in a future episode unless you say otherwise. Or you can also share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes.


In closing, if you found the podcast helpful, please sign up to follow us wherever you get your podcasts. It will help us to serve more people just like you.

I hope you were stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s all for today. See you next week. Goodbye for now.

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Related episodes that might interest you

095 – What to Do When People Irritate Us

096 – Meaningful Questions Create Meaningful Relationships

097 – Good Things Happen When We Ask