Sometimes there is harm in asking.

Occasionally, people will ask me for something and I will say no.

They will then say, “Well, there’s no harm in asking.” That’s a fun, old chestnut but it’s a lie.

Sometimes there is a lot of harm in asking. Sometimes you burn a relationship when you over ask. Sometimes you hurt a friendship when you ask for something you shouldn’t. Sometimes you ruin a business deal when you ask for something.

The truth is, there’s a fine line between hustler and jerk. You and I both have friends that over ask. They demand favors, make constant requests and feel like leeches. Then, when called on it, they claim, “I’m just hustling! There’s no harm in asking!”

There is though.

Be smart. Don’t use people. Don’t seek favors without giving any. And never believe there’s no harm in asking.

There is.

Sometimes a lot.

  • David Mike
    Posted at 06:04h, 28 March Reply

    I guess you can get over extended when you say yes to everyone. I have felt this happening to me. I agree sometimes you have to say no, and deal with the fallout.

  • Kristin
    Posted at 06:31h, 28 March Reply

    I see this a lot. There are a number of people I tend to shy away from now because they keep asking me for stuff. The worst are the folks who are always asking you for a favor but if you ask them for a favor, they are never available to help. You reap what you sow.

    • Iryssa
      Posted at 16:50h, 28 March Reply

      THIS. Oh my goodness. SO this. There has to be reciprocity. Not because I don’t want to be generous, but because I don’t want to be *used*.

  • Nick
    Posted at 07:26h, 28 March Reply

    I get it. I can’t crash on your couch for a few months while I try and “find myself” in Nashville… but geez… it’s just a few months! And I’ve met you like almost four times! Wow. You don’t have to write a post about it…. πŸ˜‰

    • Rachael T Mickel
      Posted at 09:37h, 28 March Reply


    • Rachael T Mickel
      Posted at 09:38h, 28 March Reply

      Are you the same Nick that has been posting on SCL for years?

      • Nick
        Posted at 09:43h, 28 March Reply


        I don’t think so. I’ve been reading SCL but comment mostly here. πŸ™‚

    • Rachel Bodine
      Posted at 12:58h, 28 March Reply

      Haha! “almost four times”….so close on that fourth try…so close.

      • Nick
        Posted at 14:18h, 28 March Reply

        I’m thinking maybe the sixth or seventh time I can ask again. πŸ˜‰

  • Rachael T Mickel
    Posted at 09:37h, 28 March Reply

    Thank you. Seriously.

  • Mark
    Posted at 10:00h, 28 March Reply

    Yeah, I hate polished turds myself! It doesn’t take much to move from help to greed. Loved the Beyond the ToDo List interview. Let me know how I can help you.

  • Zechariah
    Posted at 10:01h, 28 March Reply

    Great topic. I have always hated that statement. There is a lot of harm in asking sometimes. Especially online people skip directly over relationships.

  • Kimanzi
    Posted at 10:05h, 28 March Reply

    We should always come from a place of service first, great thoughts Jon.

    • Somebodyssomething
      Posted at 14:55h, 28 March Reply

      A beautiful and consise way to say it and a challenging little thought to tape on my wall.

  • Jeff Goins
    Posted at 12:20h, 28 March Reply

    Totally agree. πŸ™‚

  • Kristiana
    Posted at 12:39h, 28 March Reply

    I like that you say “sometimes.” For more introverted people, we sometimes hesitate too much at times when it would be perfectly appropriate to ask someone for a favor, reference, and so forth. I’m trying to learn when to be an advocate for myself more often while not overstepping the strength of a relationship.

    • NC Narrator
      Posted at 13:02h, 28 March Reply

      I’ve had the same issue, Kristiana, at least when it regards something I want or need. If it has to do with my children or family, all bets are off – but for myself, I hesitate. I have a different phrase I use to remind myself that it’s OK to ask sometimes: If you never ask, the answer is always no.

      I’ve always felt like the phrase, “It never hurts to ask,” is too flippant. It does hurt to ask, especially if you are painfully shy in the first place. And it fails to give the person you are asking, and their answer, the appropriate respect.

      • Kristiana
        Posted at 17:52h, 29 March Reply

        NC Narrator, that’s a great distinction of the nuances of this topic, especially in terms of attitude and weighing what consequences our question will have, whether or not we proceed to ask it.

  • Michele Bettinger
    Posted at 12:54h, 28 March Reply

    SO good! You just put into words something I’ve felt for a LOOONG time with certain people in my life.

  • Jamie @ Love Bakes Good Cakes
    Posted at 13:04h, 28 March Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more!

  • Casey Lewis
    Posted at 13:10h, 28 March Reply

    Like that time I asked you the day after Start released if I could have a copy to give away at my book launch event only 3 weeks after you started following me on Twitter.

    Yeah… Sometimes I’m an idiot.

  • Lisa Raye Morris
    Posted at 13:16h, 28 March Reply

    Totally agreed. There have been relationships in my life that have been completely wrecked by former friends who have joined network marketing companies. They start to treat every interaction as a way to “network.” There’s no harm in asking ONCE, but the second you start seeing your friends as your “warm market” instead of your loved ones, you’ve crossed a line. Great post, Jon!

  • Jennifer Lundberg
    Posted at 13:31h, 28 March Reply

    Yes!! If I change my mind I’ll let you but each time you ask hoping this time I’ll say yes does hurt our relationship.

  • Katie
    Posted at 13:42h, 28 March Reply

    Can someone provide a little more insight here? I’m not sure I understand.

    I do see people taking advantage of others–particularly when Christians who have nice incomes/ lifestyles refuse to pay appropriately for child care, for instance, and can budget for everything BUT that (i.e., it’s not cool to require someone to live at a lower standard to serve you so that you can pay them, but live at a higher standard).

    No doubt I hate it MORE because I’ve seen it in myself, asking immaturely as a young adult for loans/ small gifts because at that time it seemed EVERYBODY had more than I did. I’ve since developed the fairly-firm conviction that if God wants someone to give to me, He will lay it on their hearts. I have had people reach out simply because God told them to, I have no doubt, when things were strained. So anyway, I’ve grown there.

    But what about asking for a ride? Asking for a babysitting trade-off that at first blush seems like it might serve both parties, but in the end the other party has to say “no”? Have I harmed anything by asking? What about asking an older woman for discipleship? It might sting a little if I’ve bothered someone whose schedule is overfull, but was it wrong to ask?

    • Joanna
      Posted at 17:52h, 28 March Reply

      I think the key is that he said sometimes there’s harm, not that there’s always harm. Small ways of helping each other out (like rides or babysitting trade-offs) are a normal part of friendships. It’s when you start targeting acquaintances with requests bigger than reasonable for the stage of the relationship, nagging, or taking but never giving that things get harmful.

  • Trey
    Posted at 13:45h, 28 March Reply

    I wonder if people ask too much because very few people these days know how to say no.

  • JT Adamson
    Posted at 13:57h, 28 March Reply

    So, “no harm in asking” is the deceptive cousin of “just sayin'”

    Just sayin’

  • Bryan Orr
    Posted at 14:07h, 28 March Reply

    New saying “It can’t hurt to serve”

  • Charis
    Posted at 14:20h, 28 March Reply

    I struggle with this – i have a fear of “over-asking” (due to so many others that i’ve witnessed doing it and causing damage – and also, if I’m going to be completely honest, largely out of a fear of rejection) so i barely (if ever) ask for things from people. How does one work on finding a balance in these things?

  • Mike Koehler
    Posted at 14:24h, 28 March Reply

    Hmmm. Great food for thought.

  • John C
    Posted at 16:08h, 28 March Reply

    Agree. But there is also the saying “All you had to do is ask.”
    Some people want to help, do favors etc. I always remember the story of a rich woman in Evansville Illinois (home of Northwestern U.). The president of Northwestern read in the paper that she had given a huge gift to the University of Chicago. He went to see her and asked why she gave the gift to U of Chicago when Northwestern was her local University. Her answer was simple–“They asked, you didn’t.”

  • John C
    Posted at 16:09h, 28 March Reply

    oops, meant to say Evanston, not Evansville.

  • Mel
    Posted at 18:41h, 28 March Reply

    I want people to ask, and rarely volunteer. In other words, people need to ask. I don’t like implied favors or “implied consent”. Example- if someone says, “I really need to go to xyz job interview, but have no way to get there.” And we continue in conversation, I generally won’t offer. Sometimes they get frustrated, and start “hinting”. “I wish I knew someone who could drive me….” and then wait for a response. So annoying ! πŸ™

  • Lady Tam
    Posted at 22:41h, 28 March Reply

    I’m super-duper paranoid about asking for favors for this reason. If they do me a favor, what will I owe them?! Do I owe them whatever they say, or do I get to choose?? What if when it comes time to return the favor, I have a legitimate reason for not being able to?? Will they hate me? Will they think I’m a liar or a mooch or something?? AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!11

    On the other hand, I try to do favors for others without expecting anything back. Presents, loaning change, whatever – just take it and don’t worry about it. It’s not a loan after all.

    When I say “there’s no harm in asking”, it’s usually in relation to finding something in a store or something petty like that. Not sure what kind of favor would damage a relationship so badly that someone could, with clear conscious, say “no harm in asking”. 4

  • Chip Dizard
    Posted at 07:18h, 29 March Reply

    Timing is everything with an ask. And sometimes the right time is never.

  • Eric Dye
    Posted at 07:58h, 29 March Reply

    True story.

  • Juanita Schulze
    Posted at 08:09h, 29 March Reply

    Exactly, Jon. If I have my own business, why do you keep on asking me if I would like to see the demonstration video of your latest business enterprise. I told you “no” to the last 3 you were involved in. I have no time for what you think is finally going to make you rich…This has actually happened to me from an old childhood friend whom I have not seen since 1975! Oh, Facebook, the things you make possible these days…..Great post, Jon!

  • Sadie
    Posted at 10:16h, 29 March Reply

    So true. There are those who feel free to ask anyone for anything, anytime. And then there are those of us who are loathe to ask for help when we really need it, for fear of coming across like a mooch. For example, I am a stay-at-home mother of 6 children and military wife facing the prospect of moving in 2 months with minimal help from my husband because of the nature of his job and the fact that he will be gone for much of the time. While I could certainly use help from friends and neighbors, and some are more than happy to help, I absolutely despise asking!

  • Scott
    Posted at 18:35h, 29 March Reply

    Very true. I bet a big part of it is motivation and tone. Why are you asking? How are you asking? Sure, it doesn’t hurt to ask most of the time. But you can offend someone and burn a bridge if you do it in a thoughtless way.

  • Craig
    Posted at 07:01h, 31 March Reply

    So… What if the person you ask never answers? Who is being the jerk now? If your answer is no, then just say no. Don’t ignore me. Does it hurt to ask again and again till you get an answer?

    “Hustling” means you need to take initiative. When does initiative turn into being a jerk?

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