Call it cliche or wisdom, the phrase “It does not hurt to ask” seems simple enough. Is it?
First of all, it depends what the request is? If the request is offensive, explicit, or harming personal dignity, the person being asked may be hurt, annoyed or pissed about it. Unless your request is based on a guiding principle in your life, you may want to re-consider or think about re-phrasing. If someone is talking on a cell phone in a movie theater and your principle of politeness is violated by this action, by all means, ask them to stop and don’t worry about the consequences. My guess is you’ll regret not speaking up.
Second, are you taking advantage of someone? Try to phrase to create a win-win situation or mutual benefit.
Third, it may seem intrusive. If you are asking for someone’s time, money, or assistance, be prepared the response may not seem very receptive.
So, those are some bad potential outcomes, what about the positives? Making a request may simply improve a particular moment of your day, improve your day overall, and make you feel better about yourself for having the confidence to ask and exerting control of your environment. I find often there is more regret in not asking than in negative outcomes from the request. Making a request makes you feel courageous!
An example of regret occurred today. Jen went out early to do our grocery shopping. She had a substantial order and knew it would take a fair amount of time to process this through the limited space of the self-checkout (especially since you have to leave product on the bagging sensor or risk setting off the screeching sirens). She saw a clerk who might be working a register, but she wasn’t sure. So, she struggled with her order and getting miffed the clerk was not offering to assist or tell her if she was open.
Shortly after Jen starting checking herself out, another customer came by. The clerk again was silent, but then the customer asked if she was open. The clerk said “Yes I am” and then rang her out before Jen was done with the self-checkout.
Obviously, there was an opportunity for customer service here, but also an opportunity if Jen had just asked. She was mad, and I’ll bet she’ll ask the next time. Was Jen’s effort to be polite and give the clerk an opportunity to offer the service worth it based on the outcome she experienced. I would say it was not.
Jen was the inspiration for this post today, but in our marriage, she is much better at making requests than I am. I am learning from her example to get better at this.
Two books that I have read give great techniques on how to get better at making requests. In Tim Ferriss’s book The Four-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, he gives great techniques on taking “Comfort Challenges” to improve your self-confidence and ability to confront strangers.
In his book 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course For Mastering Your Life Right Now, Robert D. Smith talks about trying to get to 50 “No’s” each day. His experience is that he could never get to 50 No’s in a day without getting a “Yes”, which was extremely good for his business.
In developing my own podcast Outstanding Ohioians, I have to get out of my comfort zone to get great guests on the show. Some have said no, and some have not called me back, but I keep trying so I can meet these folks and share their stories on my show. I am grateful that I get the opportunity to keep getting better at asking every day.
What would you like to get better at asking? Think about it, I bet not asking is causing you some stress. Have a great day!