The Art of Asking: Summary Review & Takeaways

This is a summary review of The Art of Asking containing key details about the book.

What is The Art of Asking About?

The Art of Asking covers the author's early days as a performer through to her musical career then. In the book, Palmer details her early life as a performer and further expands on topics covered in her speech at the TED talks. Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. The Art of Asking inspires us to rethink our own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love.

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Who is the author of The Art of Asking?

Amanda MacKinnon Gaiman Palmer is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and performance artist who is the lead vocalist, pianist, and lyricist of the duo The Dresden Dolls.

Book details

  • Print length: 339 Pages
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Biography

What are key takeaways from The Art of Asking?

Takeaway #1: Accepting Help From Someone Could Benefit You and Them

It's difficult to accept help from others. But it is important to remember that when one helps someone else, they also help themselves. Throughout her teen years, Palmer had a friend who was always there to provide her with moral support. Her friend Anthony, had a tough childhood but had trouble talking about it. By talking to others about his problems, Anthony felt supported himself. So, it wasn’t a one-sided relationship. In your own life, try accepting help from others. You’ll be surprised how many people want to help those that they admire. Before Palmer was famous, she had a grueling schedule working as a street performer. She became well known around Boston and built a large fan base, many of whom owned downtown businesses. Many of these business owners helped her with part-time work, free food and a place to store her costumes.

Takeaway #2. When Someone Helps You, Return the Favor

Palmer was often given money for her performances. She would in turn give her donors a small token like candy or a flower. The problem was that the cost of the gift was sometimes more than the donation that she received. Finally, she concluded that she didn’t have to give a physical gift. Instead, she realized that interacting with and giving attention to her audience was a gift. Just as she’d learned from her friend Anthony, you can’t always give people tangible things, but you can give them empathy and understanding.

Takeaway #3. Accept the Generosity of Others

Most people find it difficult to ask for help. This especially true when accepting something given individually as opposed to collectively. A solo artist once told Palmer that she felt funny taking money for a gig because she wasn’t with a band. Reflecting back, Palmer had similar feelings before joining a band. This is more common with women. A study conducted at Georgetown University showed that when negotiating salaries, women tend to ask for less. Palmer says if you can’t accept assistance, it must not be that serious. Throughout her life she had no trouble receiving help until she got married. Although her husband is weatthy, she had trouble taking money from him for touring and other recording expenses. When she was confronted with serious money troubles, she changed her mind.

Takeaway #4. Make Your Requests Unconditional

Often when she offered someone a gift, they would decline it. At first she was offended, but soon she realized asking is a collaborative act. Meaning, a person can say yes or no to your request. Palmer knew of two sisters who hadn’t spoken for years. When one sister became gravely ill with cancer, her son contacted her sister in hopes of a reconciliation. He was crushed when his aunt refused to see his mother. The lesson here is that giving the person the option to say yes or no really matters.

Takeaway #5: Asking works best as a reciprocal practice in a community

When asking for help, be sure to ask the right people. Palmer has a pool of family, friends and fans that she is close with. Palmer can go to this group of people to ask for help when she needs it. When she needed funds to record an album with the Dresden Dolls, it was easy for her to get the money from these people. Because she appreciates her fans, she often spends lots of time signing autographs. She has even gone to the hospital to sign an autograph. By making her fans a priority, she is able to build and strengthen her community.

Takeaway #6. Build a Tight Network

Palmer says that she treated her fans like friends and not customers. When she toured with the Dresden Dolls, she took on the role of Social Media Manager. She built what she called a golden e-mail list. This list of fans would be the first to hear about gigs. She would also contact them with other musicians, artists, or fans needed help. One warning that Palmer gives is to never sell these friends out. For example, she knew that her record label didn’t really care about her fans. When they asked for her list, she declined knowing that they would use it for commercial reasons.

Takeaway #7: “Crowd” everything

Crowdsourcing is a great way to gather information and raise funds. Plus, it is easy and fun to use social media. Twitter is Palmer’s favorite way to communicate. Once she posted a photo of a rash thinking that it was a bug bite. A fan told her it was a staph infection and it turns out they were right. Twitter is also good for crowdfunding if you’ve built a good network. Not wanting to rely on a label, she turned to social media to fund her first solo album. She was shocked when she raised over $1.2 million dollars, which included pre-ordered albums and fees for private concerts. Through regular communication, she has built a trusting community, making it easy to raise the money that she needed.

Takeaway #8: Build Trust By Being Honest

The last key to Palmer’s success is transparency. She is always open and honest with her fans. Palmer’s friend Anthony was diagnosed with cancer and she was torn between caring for her friend and continuing her tour. When she canceled her tour, she was upfront with fans and told them why. Her decision was met with understanding and some even sent well wishes to Anthony. This just proves that it is beneficial to be honest. Palmer also shares everything with her fans so that they can get to know the real her.

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What are the chapters in The Art of Asking?

Introduction: Questioning Is the Skill of Management
Common Errors: How to Recognize and Correct Them
Neglected Questions
Misuses of Management Skills: Inquisitions Are Not the Only Abuse of Questioning
Questioning: Improve Your Skills
Signs and Signals
Types of Questions
Use of Skills
Questioning as a Spectator Sport: Where to Go to Watch and Learn the Game

What are some of the main summary points from the book?

Here are some key summary points from the book:

  • The Art of Asking emphasizes the importance of vulnerability and the power of asking for help.
  • Amanda Palmer, the author, shares her personal experiences as a street performer and musician to illustrate the value of connecting with others through asking.
  • Palmer challenges societal norms and the fear of judgment that often inhibits people from asking for assistance or support.
  • The book highlights the significance of building genuine connections and fostering a sense of community through asking for help.
  • Palmer emphasizes the reciprocal nature of asking, encouraging readers to recognize that by asking, they are also giving others the opportunity to contribute and be part of something meaningful.
  • Effective asking requires trust, open communication, and the willingness to receive both positive and negative responses.
  • The Art of Asking explores the concept of crowdfunding and how it has revolutionized the way artists and creators can connect directly with their audience and ask for financial support.
  • Palmer discusses the importance of embracing the concept of "the gift economy" and the idea that giving and receiving can be interconnected and mutually beneficial.
  • The book encourages readers to overcome their fears and insecurities related to asking, recognizing that it is a skill that can be developed and honed over time.
  • Palmer emphasizes the significance of gratitude and the importance of expressing appreciation for the support received when asking for help.
  • The Art of Asking ultimately promotes the idea that asking for help is an act of courage, vulnerability, and trust that can lead to profound personal and professional growth.

What are good quotes from The Art of Asking?

"There’s a difference between wanting to be looked at and wanting to be seen. When you are looked at, your eyes can be closed. You suck energy, you steal the spotlight. When you are seen, your eyes must be open, and you are seeing and recognizing your witness. You accept energy and you generate energy. You create light. One is exhibitionism, the other is connection. Not everybody wants to be looked at. Everybody wants to be seen.”

“There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist... You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.”

“From what I've seen, it isn't so much the act of asking that paralyzes us--it's what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one. It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.”

“When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.”

“There's really no honor in proving that you can carry the entire load on your own shoulders.'s lonely”

“In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple: The professionals know they’re winging it. The amateurs pretend they’re not.”

“And when you’re afraid of someone’s judgment, you can’t connect with them. You’re too preoccupied with the task of impressing them.”

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“Eat the pain. Send it back into the void as love.”

“The perception that vulnerability is weakness is the most widely accepted myth about vulnerability and the most dangerous... We’ve come to the point where, rather than respecting and appreciating the courage and daring behind vulnerability, we let our fear and discomfort become judgment and criticism.”

“When you openly, radically trust people, they not only take care of you, they become your allies, your family. Sometimes people will prove themselves untrustworthy. When that happens, the correct response is not: Fuck! I knew I couldn’t trust anybody! The correct response is: Some people just suck. Moving right along.”

“American culture in particular has instilled in us the bizarre notion that to ask for help amounts to an admission of failure. But some of the most powerful, successful, admired people in the world seem, to me, to have something in common: they ask constantly, creatively, compassionately, and gracefully."

"When you ask, there’s always the possibility of a no on the other side of the request. If we don’t allow for that no, we’re not actually asking, we’re either begging or demanding."

"It isn’t what you say to people, it’s more important what you do with them. It’s less important what you do with them than the way you’re with them."

“It's hard enough to give fearlessly, and it's even harder to receive fearlessly. But within that exchange lies the hardest thing of all: To ask. Without shame. And to accept the help that people offer. Not to force them. Just to let them."

“You can’t ever give people what they want. But you can give them something else. You can give them empathy. You can give them understanding. And that’s a lot, and enough to give.”

“It’s really easy to love passing strangers unconditionally. They demand nothing of you. It is really hard to love people unconditionally when they can hurt you."

“When we ask for anything, we're almost always asking for help, in some form; help with money, permission, acceptance, advancement, help with our hearts... If I ask for help...I am not enough. If I ask for help...I'm weak. It's no wonder so many of us don't bother to ask, it's too painful.”

“Asking is, in itself, the fundamental building block of any relationship."

“Asking for help with shame says: You have the power over me. Asking with condescension says: I have the power over you. But asking for help with gratitude says: We have the power to help each other.” (Meaning)

― Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking Quotes

What do critics say?

Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about the book: "Much as Anne Lamott offered 'instructions on writing and life' in Bird by Bird, Amanda Palmer will be instructive to anyone who struggles with fear of the 'no.'" — Shelf Awareness

* The summary points above have been concluded from the book and other public sources. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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