Going out on a limb is a trip that is not always easy to take.
Sometimes when we ponder the risks of asking or saying something that has a risk involved – a risk of getting a negative response or reaction, we don’t take action. This could be a good thing, if the question or statement is not well thought out or is inappropropriate. I have a well worn spot in my mouth where my foot has a habit of going because I don’t always think before I speak or act.
On the other hand, asking for something, making a connection or “putting yourself out there” can create opportunities and benefits that could even be life changing. It doesn’t hurt to ask if, as Seth Godin says, you “invest some time and earn the right to ask. Do your homework. Build connections. Make a reasonable request, something easy and mutually beneficial.”
What holds you back from asking for something?
We are afraid of rejection.
Asking for something requires an answer, or a lack of an answer, which we probably interpret as negative. If we don’t ask for something we want, we avoid the possibility of being personally rejected. As long as we avoid asking, we won’t hear “no.” But, we also won’t hear “yes!” Taking the step to ask for something is hard. You will not always get a “yes.” But you will NEVER get a yes if you don’t ask.
Is there something you have been afraid to ask for ? A promotion? A new client contract? An introduction to someone who you would like to work with? Think about what is holding you back. Consider the worst that could happen as well as the positive outcome. Consult with trusted friends and colleagues to frame and practice your request. Coach yourself about the reaction you will have to “no” so that you won’t take it personally.
We are afraid of looking stupid.
We have to solve problems on our own, and not to reveal a lack of knowledge. Perhaps this is why men notoriously do not like to ask for directions? If you ask for help, you may appear to be incapable of something. If you ask for something, you may seem needy.
In contrast, I often find that asking a question empowers other people who want to help. I love helping people, so I can understand how being helpful is a good feeling. The next time you need something, consider the point of view of the person you are asking, and that they may feel grateful for the opportunity to come to your aid.
When it hurts
There are times, places, and circumstances where it does not hurt to ask – and there are some circumstances under which it can be damaging. Asking the same person too often without providing something in return is taking advantage of a kindness. Soliciting is different than asking. We have probably all received bulk, generic emails asking us to help someone we don’t know, or who is overstepping a relationship with an awkward request.
If you are going to ask for something, be sure you consider if it is appropriate, and that you have developed a relationship where your request is not coming out of left field or asking too much. The approach and context is important. You don’t want to be “that guy/girl” who is always asking and never giving.
Just like setting goals, preparing for an “ask” requires planning .Take the time to consider what you are asking for, who you are asking, and how you are making the request. If possible, frame it in a way that also describes how your request may benefit the person you are asking.
Pay it forward
What goes around comes around. I believe that being a generous and kind person helps bring generosity and kindness to you. If you get what you are asking for, remember the experience and use it to guide your decisions about how to respond when something is asked of you.
Once you have considered and planned your request take the leap! It really doesn’t hurt to ask.