Business Strategy

The Power of Asking

the power of asking
the power of asking
You only need to ask to get many of the things you want professionally, so why do so many people fail to ask?

Do you want to attend a conference this year? Perhaps you want a promotion, a raise or more vacation? Maybe you want to interview one of your business idols for your blog?

You can make some or all of these things happen, but only if you ask. This seems so simple, but it rarely happens. I’ve seen many people quit jobs rather than ask for more money or a change in responsibilities. It seems that it is easier for most of us to simply find a new job than it is to have a potentially awkward conversation with your boss.

However, very often, your boss will say yes to your requests, or at least try to meet you halfway–especially of they want to keep you around. It is much more of a pain for companies to hire new talent than it is to give existing talent more money or training.

You may think that your boss isn’t paying attention to you, but most are so caught up in their own issues, they simply haven’t taken the time to think about what your needs might be.

So, if it’s this easy to get what you want professionally, why do so many people fail to ask?

A Study On Asking

the small bigIn their book The Small Big: Small Changes That Spark a Big Influence, authors Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein and Robert B. Cialdini profiled a study by social scientists Frank Flynn and Vanessa Bohs that looked at people’s tendency to underestimate the likelihood that the recipient of a request would actually say yes.

Through a series of experiments  including fundraising requests, asking to use a phone and soliciting survey responses, Flynn and Bohns found that participants underestimated the likelihood of agreement by about half.

They attributed this to requesters focusing on the cost to the potential help provider in terms of time, effort or money. However, requesters should have been thinking about the social costs (guilt, embarrassment, awkwardness) to the potential help-provider should they say no.

So, what the experiment proves is that you are probably underestimating your chances to get that help/promotion/interview that you have been after. Beyond the “social costs” that the experiment described, I would also attribute some of this to the fact that people are generally pretty nice.

Your boss wants you to succeed and to be happy. People want to be interviewed. People are glad to help when you need it.

I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews over the years for various blog posts and articles. I typically identify four or five experts who I would like to interview and reach out to all of them.

Typically, I get more positive responses than I can use in one blog post or article, and end up creating more content to fit all of the interview material. None of that happened, however, until I got over my fear of asking and stopped assuming that the answer would always be no.

Come Prepared

Do Your Homework
Asking alone won’t do it. Do your homework – build a compelling case for yourself.

I’ve been able to move forward in my career, gaining promotions and attending conferences, but it was mainly due to the power of asking.

One last point I want to make, however, is that it is not enough to simply ask. Do your research first.

Have concrete reasons why you are the best person for a new position, have good reasons why attending a conference will help you and your company or why someone should grant you an interview for your blog post.

The next time you want something to happen for you professionally, make it happen. Write down the reasons, make a case for yourself, and get out there and ask. Success comes in cans, not in can’ts!


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