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You have to ask for it

Sandor Dargo
Happy father. Principal Engineer. Author. Creator of dailycppinterview.com
Originally published at sandordargo.com Updated on ・8 min read

As you might know, I'm writing a book, its working title is "The Seniority Trap". From time to time, I'll post some parts of it, before it gets released. If you are interested in the updates, please subscribe to my personal blog and let's connect on Twitter!


I'll tell you what. Those people who reject you or your demands will still look up at you. They will think that actually, they met someone with courage, someone who doesn't sell himself cheap, someone with a spine.

Asking and potentially getting rejected doesn't mean that they will you. It doesn't mean that they will give you what you wanted. But they will respect you.

And that's not all! Maybe they were never thinking about giving you what you just asked for. But that's only because they simply never had the idea, it's not important to them. Now that you asked, they might actually consider it.

It's seldom that a person would be outraged at someone for having asked something and even if it happens, you have nothing to be sorry for. You didn't do anything bad.

How should you practice getting rid of your fear of rejection?

There is nothing to be afraid of

Once I watched a TedX talk about a guy who each day tried to ask something that he wouldn't get. He committed to doing this for a hundred days. He meant to approach somebody every single day who would reject him because his demands were such nonsense, like a burger refill in a diner.

The first days he was shaking from fear and that's true that his demand for a burger refill was rejected, but it was not at all so frightening as he imagined in his mind. And actually, the diner staff was considering his demand.

Remember, most of the things that you find frightening are only so in your mind. As soon as you ask the question, the fear fades.

A technique that amazed me, a technique I also practice from time to time is coming from the author of The 4 Hour Work Week and serial entrepreneur Tim Ferris.

It's called fear setting and you have to fill 3 simple pages.

On the first page, you will make 3 lists each with at least 10 entries.

You have to:

  • Define the worst things that could happen
  • Briefly write down how you can prevent them
  • And how you can fix the situation, it the worst happens

On the second page, you write down what might be the benefit of an attempt or a partial success.

Finally, on the third page, you have to list the emotional, physical, financial (all that applies) costs of your inaction in different time spans, like 6 months, a year, 3 years.

Yes, this technique is mostly not about asking for help, it's usable everywhere.

Its point is to show you that you have nothing to be afraid of, even the worst is not so bad. Besides the worst you imagine is never as bad as the worst that can actually happen. And even that doesn't tend to happen. Not even in 2021.

Just think about, what is the cost of not asking for that raise you think you deserve? Let's say you make a 100k USD and you'd get a 10k raise. That's 5k in 6 months. In a year that's 10k, in 3 years that's 30k USD? I didn't even consider interests and the effect it might have on your physical state if you planned to hire a personal trainer. And what about the emotional costs of succeeding to ask for something?

Go and ask what you want!

They will like you more

Do you remember the experiment I shared with you in the previous chapter that proved the Ben Franklin effect?

Students were invited to a Q&A competition where the best performers gained some money. The teacher approached about a third of the winners after the session and explained to them that the money was his own and actually he had very little so he needed to ask it back.

Another third was contacted by the faculty secretary and she said that the money was the faculty's and they were running on a limited budget, so they needed the money back.

The rest was left alone so they could keep the money they won.

Later, the students who won were asked to evaluate the session and those who liked it the most were the ones contacted by the teacher. The ones who were contacted by the secretary disliked the course the most.

A refund request by an intermediary had a negative impact while a direct request had increased their liking.

As Ben Franklin, the famous writer, printer, politician, philosopher, scientists said, "a person who has already performed a favor for another is more likely to do another favor for the other than if they had received a favor from that person".

If someone performs a favour for you, he will like you more. Normally, we prefer to help people who we already like, so if I ask for some help and you help me, even if you didn't particularly like me, there is a fair chance that you will like me more.

You will like you more because we all tend to help people who we like, who we consider close enough to actually get our help. And if I ask for help and you decide to help - for so many of us it's so difficult to say no - your subconscious mind will do everything to make up for it, to justify that help.

This means that asking for help, for a raise, for an opportunity might not just move you forward with your goals, it will also make you more likeable. How cool is that!

Someone's trash might be the other's treasure

We are selfish animals and we constantly think about ourselves.

Even when you help someone, even when you donate to a charity, you do so because you want to feel good, you want to feel better.

There are very few truly altruistic people who do something good not in order to feel better.

Most of us will not spend our time thinking about how to make something better for other souls. How to give them something. How to make their life or their career better.

We don't even consider it for a single moment.

Maybe what that other person wants is something that means nothing to us or maybe it's something we can grant them without giving up on anything.

Now let's change the direction.

Maybe what you want means nothing to that other person. Maybe what you wish for is something the other person can just let you have without costing him anything at all.

You have to find it out!

Why don't you ask for it?

Maybe you really want that book on Design Patterns, but you don't want to spend 50 quids on it because you're saving up the last pennies for your child's braces. You know that I have it but you don't ask for it, why not? I might not use it all the time and I could lend it to you, or maybe I have two copies of it - like I actually had -, you don't know until you ask for it.

Or maybe, I'm your manager and I didn't think that you would be interested in that side project that those folks were promoting at the last technical forum. But if you ask for the opportunity, if you ask for permission, I can approve it right away.

But if you are too shy to bring it up, if you are afraid of rejection, you'll never get it.

By asking, you will actually make people think, they will think about things they haven't even considered. And if it's so easy for them to give you something that means no effort on their sides, they will definitely say yes.

Ask to remove the burden of decision making

If you have to ask something from your boss, guess what, you might even help with this.

You want to go to a conference. Your performance is solid, but not outstanding and maybe there aren't any rock stars in your team, so basically nobody would merit that conference much more than you.

Maybe the others would also be happy to go to conferences.

If they were sent to.

But let's be fair, the chance is not great for that.

Do your homework, calculate how much it will cost, what value will your participation bring to the team and ask for the conference.

You don't just ask for it, in fact, you volunteer, you show care!

Maybe your boss has a budget for conferences, but he is not really keen on using it. After all, it's work on his side and he has to pick someone.

You, by asking for it and doing your homework, remove this burden from his shoulders. He doesn't have to pick anyone, he can just approve your request.

There is a fair chance that it's not so easy and he doesn't have any budget. Maybe his boss, or the boss of his boss... For sure your boss wouldn't just ask if he can send someone, anyone to some conference that you.

But if you specifically asked for that conference, most probably he will try to make an effort for you.

People simply like people who have the guts, who take the lead, who have the courage, the mojo.

Of course, it will not always work. You don't always get what you want. I remember that once I asked for a conference that I really wanted to attend. My boss understood. He asked his boss. She understood, but she needed it written. So I did my homework, wrote a cost analysis, I shared why it will be beneficial both for me and the company. In fact, this was a good exercise for me, to reason, to show the value of a conference.

But the decision was not up to my boss or my boss' boss, because I asked for some money that should have been granted three levels above.

So even my boss' boss asked her boss. You see, even she made the effort for me!

I tried to follow up on a regular basis to show interest, but not to be a too big pain in the ass. My n+3 turned it down saying that it's not our division's responsibility to send people to conferences - whatever he meant by that.

The reasoning was strange, to say the least, but the point is I lost nothing. I asked for something, and my bosses tried to help me and actually, even my n+3 learnt my name and learnt about my interests.

Next time, when I asked for something, to participate in a project and leave the department for 3 months, he even gave me three more months so that I can learn more there and deliver more value. Would he have done the same if he didn't know my name, if he didn't turn me already down?

Maybe yes, but I don't think so. By asking, I made them think, probably I made them like me and I made it easier for them to help me the next time.

Why don't we all do the same?


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Photo by Brett Jordan, Unsplash

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