If you want to be able to ask for anything then you need to be prepared to hear the word "No".
I often talk about power of the word "No". When you grasp the confidence to politely but firmly say "No" your time management skills will double overnight.
Knowing how to say "No" can seem tricky but is an important skill that's actually quite easy to do. I'll write about that again some time and share different ways (there are loads) to say "No". The key is also learning how you can feel confident in doing so.
Today however is different. The opposite in fact.
Today I want you to consider embracing hearing the word "No".
I want you to not mind being told "No".
This is another simple and important skill that can also be tricky to master. Why is that?
One reason is that most people are scared about hearing the word "No".
When you ask for something and get a negative reply you might see it as a personal slight. An attack on your ego perhaps.
"No?! Why not? Why can't I? What's wrong with me?"
Thinking like this is common. It usually doesn't hold up to much scrutiny but we still do it all the same.
Very often it's not really about you per se, but the other circumstances around you.
Or maybe you've framed the question you're asking badly. But you don't focus on that, instead you wrongly focus on the refusal and how that makes you feel.
The possibility of being told "No" is perceived as too much of a risk. So you hold back and you don't ask the question.
People don't like being in a position of vulnerability. Sharing your wants, needs or desires can feel like you're allowing yourself to become vulnerable.
So of course, asking a question and awaiting someone else's approval can feel like you are in a vulnerable position.
But hang on, that's just a feeling. That's just how you've allowed yourself to interpret it.
And frankly, we're pretty unreliable witnesses to ourselves so I'd suggest that it's more useful to immediately not trust your own judgement here.
A handy default is to just assume you got that wrong.
if you allow yourself to feel vulnerable and then the answer is "No" your feelings can be compounded.
In your head you tell yourself the person who just turned down the request is now thinking badly about you. "God they must think I'm desperate / needy / sad / greedy / mad etc"
No they're not.
They're mostly thinking something like "I really fancy going to Nando's tonight."
The reality is that people aren't thinking about you. They're thinking about themselves.
In some ways that's a shame but mostly it's great because now you know your vulnerability is fake. No one is thinking anything about you and nothing is at stake.
This can help you to not care so much, and then you can ask for what you want.
Care enough to want it but not too much that you can't ask for fear of being turned down!
That's a deceptively complicated sentence. Read it again.
Care enough to want it but not too much that you can't ask for fear of being turned down!
When you ask a question you've got to be prepared for the answer.
Generally there are three answers available. You have to be prepared to get any one of them.
Prepare yourself for:
- Sort of / maybe / possibly
Already there's a 66% chance that you're going to get a positive result, or something you can work with.
(And to be frank, there's a good chance you can work on the third option as well.)
But the key thing is that by being willing to hear the word "No" you give yourself permission to ask any question you like.
How To Ask For Anything
Let's think about things that you might want but for some reason you feel you can't ask for.
- You want a salary raise
- You're shopping for an item that you really love but it's a distance above your budget so you'd like to ask for a discount
- You want to borrow some money
- You'd like to ask someone on a date
A likely reason you're not asking for these things is fear of getting a negative reply and being turned down. So you don't ask.
By not asking however you're guaranteeing the end result you're worried about getting. You are in effect saying "No" to your own question!
Doesn't make sense does it? At least give yourself a chance of getting a "Yes" to your request by voicing it.
By not asking you're closing the door on the small glimmer of hope that exists.
Instead ask the question and be ready for any of the answers
When I say be ready I literally mean choosing your emotional response in advance. Have an 'oven ready' emotional response in case you have to hear "No".
Try out what it would feel like so you're already used to it and can minimise the effect before it arrives.
Plan for the worst and hope for the best right?
It might seem a bit counter intuitive to get ready for, and used to, hearing "No". Maybe it feels that to do so you would be dropping your standards or lowering expectations.
It's not. It's the opposite. You're still going to frame the question with all the things you'd try to put in place in order to get to a positive answer. So there's no real change there anyway.
As you do this you'll be able to ask more questions and simply by increasing the frequency of your asks, you'll increase your chances of getting a "Yes".
The more you do something, the better you get at doing it, and again the more your chances of success will improve. Your standards are actually going to improve rather than go down.
You'll toughen up too. You'll get more used to small setbacks because you're inviting more of them. You'll recognise that the world keeps spinning and that it's really okay to keep asking.
Maybe you're worried that hearing the word "No" means that the chance has gone forever. That's very rarely the case. No can often mean
- Not right now
- I'm busy don't bother me
- It's too expensive
- You're asking for too much let's negotiate
- You haven't fully explained your reasons try again
Sales people will already know that a "No" can be a gateway to further questions and a clarification of what the prospective customer really wants.
I'll give you an example where once I made a big ask that put me out of my comfort zone.
A few years ago I had a problem with Halifax Bank. I was buying a property and deposited a massive cheque in the York branch. The cheque was the funds from the mortgage company to buy the house.
The staff member confirmed that the cheque would clear by a certain time. I got absolute clarity about this. It was kind of a big deal to me.
Of course the cheque failed to clear in time and I was left running round trying to sort out a big problem for a few days.
The problem got sorted but it was a bit hairy and stressful. It also was thoroughly annoying because it was all so avoidable.
I'd highlighted the importance of this cheque, raised possible problems, double checked and confirmed that everything would be okay. Yet the information and reassurance I'd been given was duff and it had negative impact and caused me hassle.
I raised a complaint but from the way they responded I didn't feel that they were really bothered about me or the situation they had caused. We got onto the issue of "What would you like us to do Mr Smith to make it right?"
Usually a bank will offer something like £50 to £150 for an admin error but I was really fed up with their mistake and said I'd think about it and get back later.
I then wrote to them asking for compensation. I wrote what you might consider a 'cheeky' letter.
I looked at the sliding scale of fees they had in place that they would charge me for using my overdraft facility and applied this to the rather large amount on the cheque I deposited. I can't remember the exact amount I asked them for but it was quite a bit over £10,000.
I felt a bit daft when I wrote it but at the same time was feeling quite affronted. "Sod it, let's see what they say" I thought.
A few days later I received a phone call.
"We can offer you a goodwill gesture but I'm afraid we can't offer you that much. It's a disproportionate amount."
It wasn't a surprise really was it? I asked for something outlandish and was told "No."
The lady on the phone was really lovely but she also implied that it was an unrealistic amount to ask for.
I could well have folded and been led to a 'reasonable' amount but I decided to try it on.
I pushed a bit more, just to see what they'd say.
"It's a large number but it's not unrealistic. I used your own formula to calculate this so it's very realistic."
"Well, I'm afraid that's more than we're allowed to offer you in a case like this."
Oh hello! I wondered what that number might be. There followed a short dialogue where she tried to backtrack but the cat was out of the bag. I'd been told that there was a limit in cases like this.
"What's the most you're allowed to offer me in a case like this?"
"It's nowhere near the amount you're asking for I'm afraid."
"No of course. But what's the most you're allowed to offer me?"
It turned out that because of the large amount involved in their mistake they were authorised to offer me about £3,000 as a goodwill gesture.
A few thousand pounds?! Thank you very much, that's the best "No" I've heard in a long time! I snapped their hands off.
If I had not asked for that much larger amount it's doubtful I'd have learned about the limit that was available to me.
So in summary, always ask. Always. You might not get a "Yes", but the "No" might be more than acceptable!
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