A couple of weeks ago I drove home from a trip to Pennsylvania with a friend. About midday we stopped at a rest area on the Merritt Parkway. We got to the door of the restroom only to find a line of at least 8 women ahead of us. There were only two stalls in the bathroom and it was the only bathroom in the entire rest area. I begrudged the time we’d waste standing in line, but I knew having to stop again at the next rest area would take even longer.

An older lady arrived at the back of the line, just behind my friend and me, who were hovering in the open doorway, unable to enter the bathroom yet due to the crowd. The lady behind us was talking to herself and doing the “bathroom dance,” as my son calls it. She muttered, “I don’t know if I can make it.”

This is someone who needs to ask for what she needs, I thought, having recently spoken up on my own behalf. (Click here to read that post.) I gestured for the woman to move ahead of me and said, rather louder than I needed to: “You can go ahead of me, and you can ask if you can go ahead of everyone.”

At that, everyone in the line turned toward us.

“Oh, would you mind?” the woman asked, moving forward.

“Not at all,” the woman at the front of the line said, just as another woman came out of a stall. Everyone else shook their heads and gestured for the woman to go forward. The woman disappeared into the stall as she said, “Thank you.”

In that case, I helped the woman ask for what she needed, which made me think about something else: It takes practice to get good at asking for what we need. In our culture, we are taught to “go it alone,” and “just do it.” We are not taught to ask for help.

We need to practice.

It’s really important to ask for what we need in small ways, even inconsequential ways.

When my husband and I were first married, he used to get frustrated with me because I’d never say where I wanted to eat dinner when we were going out. I’d just say, “I don’t care.”

Then he’d mention a restaurant and I would say, “Oh, I don’t want to eat there.”

“Then why’d you say you don’t care?”

Good question.

I started practicing. It’s paid off.

On that same drive home from Pennsylvania, my husband and I talked on the phone and he suggested going out to our favorite restaurant for dinner if I got home early enough. I told him I thought I’d be home before five and Moonstones for dinner sounded great.

When I arrived home at 4:30 PM, my husband said he had dinner all prepped and ready to go, as he hadn’t been sure what time I’d get home.

“I thought we were going out to dinner, “ I said. I’d been looking forward to it since we’d spoken earlier in the afternoon.

“We can,” he said. “I can cook the salmon tomorrow night.”

“Great, “ I said, “let’s go out.”

Dinner that night was wonderful, and so was the salmon when my husband cooked it the next night.

This asking for what you need stuff is great, I thought, as I forked up another bite of salmon.

How do you practice asking for what you need?