Published June 07, 2017
As Jay Leno approached her, “Tonight Show” audience member Linda Swindling decided not to ask the talk show host to pose for a picture with her. She immediately regretted it, as a friend who was also in the audience did ask and, subsequently, got her photo taken with him.
The Leno story is central to a TED talk (www.lindaswindling.com/ted-talk-on-how-to-ask-outrageously/) Swindling gave last year about how much we miss out on by not asking for what we want. It is also one of the stories she uses in her new book, “Ask Outrageously! The Secret to Getting What You Really Want.”
Swindling is a lawyer, a certified speaking professional and a writer. She’s helped businesspeople polish their negotiating skills and taught them how to deal with difficult personalities in the workplace.
Her latest book, though not specifically aimed at women, could go a long way toward helping them advance their careers when you consider that women, overall, aren’t keen on negotiating for what they want.
“Women are intimidated by the concept of negotiating,” said Swindling. So, in one of several mind twists she offers in her book, Swindling advises readers to simply redefine what they are doing. Instead of “negotiating,” try “asking,” she says.
Swindling’s research — she got 1,163 people to respond to her survey simply by asking them — revealed that the things we fret over when we want to ask for something have nothing to do with why our requests are rejected.
Swindling found that people hesitate to ask for what they want because they think that the timing is bad, that more information is needed or that people don’t want to spend money. Interestingly, the top two reasons requests are rejected, according to her survey, are (1) the request is inappropriate — in other words, it is something the person can’t possibly deliver, usually because it is out of their control, and (2) the person dislikes or distrusts the person making the request.
“The two highest reasons they will reject a request are not what people are worried about,” Swindling said.
Here are a few tips from Swindling about how to ask for what you want.
Realize your requests benefit others.
If you have no problem asking on behalf of someone else, you are not alone.
Swindling’s research found that 65 percent of people are more comfortable making a request for others. Here’s a way to use this ability on your own behalf. “Ask for yourself, but think of the others who will benefit,” said Swindling. “If you want to ask for a raise, then think about it this way: ‘If I get the extra money, what does that mean for my family? We can pay off a loan, take a trip, etc.’”
Ask open-ended questions.
Successful leaders ask a lot of open-ended questions, and you should do the same as you ask for everything from raises to company funding to support personal development. If you ask for a raise (and it is probably an ‘ask’ that’s worth the effort, since 40 percent of people get the salary increase they request), be prepared to follow up with some questions if your request is rejected.
“Ask ‘What do I need to be doing to be considered for a raise or promotion in the future?’” Swindling said. You could also talk to your boss about what you would like to accomplish in the future. “You want to show that there is value that you are going to be adding.”
If you want to take a class or go to a conference, look for ways to bring back information others need. “Let’s say you want to go to an MPI conference. Go to all the people who are stakeholders and say, ‘I am about to go to a meeting — what do you want me to look for for you?’ And when you get to the conference, talk to others. Tell them what you are looking for and what you need to get out of the conference.”
Perfect your approach through practice.
Like anything we do, from making par on the golf course to pounding out tunes on a piano, practice is the way to get better at asking for what you want. Whether you want a raise or a better price on a floor lamp at a yard sale, just ask. “Practice makes proof,” said Swindling. “You just have to start asking.”