I had a couple of conversations in the last month or so that were unusual for me and had some interesting commonalities. Both of these conversations were with women I had just met, just been purposefully introduced to, and neither of them were probably people I would have run into otherwise, without a daisy chain of happenstance and introductions.
They were both entrepreneurs, women in the medical technology field, and both were CEO’s of tech startup companies. One was well into her professional life, and one was earlier along, but they were both amazing, inspiring, and very accomplished women. They both had big ideas, and big dreams, and a tremendous amount of bravery and strength in how they were turning those big ideas and big dreams into reality. Being the CEO of a tech startup is no joke, a lot of hard work, making connections, seeking funding, and pushing a dream forward.
I had been introduced to both of them, as good contacts and good sounding boards for some of my ideas. They both took time out of their busy schedules to meet with me, simply because they were asked. Both were generous with their time, their thoughts, and their contacts, to help me continue the daisy chain.
The Big Question:
But, what was truly noteworthy to me was a common question that showed up in both conversations. At the time, I didn’t quite know how to answer the question, and I stumbled a bit. Maybe I’m not used to this sort of networking. Maybe it’s not a question that I’m used to being asked. Maybe it’s not a question that most people are used to being asked.
But later, I realized the real story in this story was that they had both asked me the same simple question: “How can I help you?”. They asked this question, to me, a person who was a stranger just moments before. They each truly wanted to know the best way they could help me to achieve my dreams. These women had no reason to offer this up, to give of themselves so generously. But for each of them, part of who they were in the world was a woman whose purpose in life includes lifting up other women. And in order to lift up, that is a brilliant question: “How can I help you?”.
Is it Really a Simple Question?
It’s not that I’ve never had someone offer to help me before, or that I’ve never asked someone how I could help them. It’s just that the offer felt so unusual, and so giving, made by someone I had just met, who was genuinely offering of herself, her talents, and connections, very simply in service of helping another woman succeed.
Reflecting on those conversations and the surprise of that question made me realize, much to my chagrin, how infrequently I ask others how I can help them succeed. I do genuinely want success for other women, and I do ask, but I realize now, not nearly often enough. Or maybe sometimes the question is asked out of reflex or obligation, or sensing someone else’s desperation and wanting to alleviate suffering.
For me, there’s a different sense of the question in those circumstances. Help is still being genuinely offered, but somehow those situations lack the crystal-clear purity of intent and simple genuine-ness that I felt from these two women. And in an instance where nothing is owed, nothing is expected, and the offer is made out of a sense of commonality and community, with an intention to genuinely connect, there is a tremendous, heartfelt gift in the question “How can I help you?”.
And, that they both asked the same question speaks to the community of supportive tech women of which they are a part. With the intent of being more supportive of the women I encounter along my path, I will practice asking that question more often, in all its gift-full glory, and with the intention of supporting and creating community: “How can I help you?”
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Isabel Banerjee says
Yes, love this!