All this week I am sharing information and opinions about Burning Man, just in time for those who are going. After posting Gyesika Safety’s opinion about Radical Self-Reliance, I asked her permission to reprint this article on how to ask for help when you need it. It was originally published in the Flipside Flame, but I have modified it to apply to all Burning Man events.
The term “Radical Self-Reliance” gets tossed around; we generally think we know what that means and what that entails. However, even if you “hold yourself responsible for your own actions, and take personal responsibility for meeting your own needs, for the event itself, and for the event’s impact on the world at large,” there will be times when you’ll need assistance.
Someone will need to hold that pole for the shade structure, so you can attach the widget. So how do you walk the line between holding yourself and others accountable and effectively asking for assistance, when needed?
There are several ways you can go about asking someone to lend a hand. Yelling at the top of your lungs “This pole won’t hold itself!” might get someone to jump in but that is a shot in the dark. Effectively, radically ask for assistance (outside of an emergency) is easier if you use the following steps:
- Realize that the participant you ask has the right to say “No.” The rest of the process flows from this point. There are a myriad of reasons that someone might not be able to chip in at that moment. Be willing to hear “No.” and ask again.
- Be Self-Reliant: Try to accomplish your goal, yourself. You may find you don’t actually need assistance and if you do, you can be a more effective leader when you do ask. If you discover that it’s not possible (you lack 4 hands) then do what prep work is necessary and possible, so someone can jump on in.
- Stop and Think: Take time to figure out what the problem is and what you need. Know specifically what your goal is and what tools are necessary to get ‘er done. It’s much easier to lend a hand when the person asking knows what they want.
Know the Existing Infrastructure: What infrastructure is already in place to assist you? There are volunteers who sign up to help Burners, ask them. Familiarize yourself with the survival guide, website, and any other published materials which explain what help is available and where to find it. Knowing what help is already established greatly increases your ability to receive it.
- Find Someone(s): The volunteers on shift are generally well-marked and are usually around the playa. Find the appropriate camp or station (Rangers, Information, etc), but volunteers also wander the city. One will likely be by shortly if you know how to recognize them. If it is not an emergency, take a load off and flag ’em down when they come by. It is important to learn when to ask for the help of a Ranger or other organized volunteer, and when it is better to ask a camp mate or fellow participant. When it comes time to ask, approach, introduce yourself, and ask if they have some time on their hands to help you out.
- Communicate: If they say yes, then it’s time to convey what you determined in Step 2. State the goal, the tools needed, and what prep work has already been done
- Get ‘er done!
- Gratitude: Express gratitude and be specific. “Thank you, I really appreciate your help with ___.” Offer a beer/snack/water/time to chill/hospitality at a later date/etc… People have gifted their time and resources; express your appreciation.
There is no dishonor in asking for assistance but how you go about doing determines whether you receive that help now and whether people will help you again in the future. We take care of each other but ensuring you take care of yourself first generates a more positive experience for all participants.
GYESIKA SAFETY might still occasionally avoid a fight but she doesn’t run from opportunities. Born in Montreal during the Aurora Borealis, she visited three continents by the age of 13 (North America, Asia and Europe). After realizing that Orange County, California was not meeting her needs, she finished off her degree in Philosophy in Ghana, Africa. Calling Austin, Texas home, Gyesika is a converted Roman Catholic (with neo-pagan undertones), a mother, a burner, a lover of life and consummate quester to answer “why?” You can catch her blog at Dichotomy Incarnate, where she muses on and reconciles the grey areas between opposites.