Asking for something, whatever that something may be, may make you feel like a naughty child at a tea party demanding chocolate biscuits (rookie mistake. Always wait until an adult inevitably succumbs to their sweet tooth and asks, to avoid bringing shame on your asian parents).
The mere act of asking brings to mind the infamous story of Icarus, who wanted so much that he accidentally-and prophetically- flew into the sun. You may experience that itchy feeling that in demanding more you are, in some way, jeopardizing your reputation, or making yourself look like a career climber (and, may I ask, since when has being career minded become a crime?). People fret over asking for ‘too much’, or the possibility of crashing and burning. That is why nobody ever asks for anything. It’s also why they should.
I’ve always been an advocate of asking for things. A learned skill that was passed down to me from Indian parents (Indians are great hustlers), asking has been a way of life for…my entire life.
Whether in selling, negotiating, or plain old pass-me-the-salt asking, there have been countless occasions in my life when I’ve really felt that things could have been very different, had I not jumped up and asked.
If you don’t speak up about wanting something, nobody will know. And if they don’t know, how can they give it to you? Asking is like talking to that crush of yours: if you don’t tell them you’re interested, how are they to know? Do you expect that information to drop out of the sky and hit them in the face? Yes? The likelihood of that happening, unfortunately, runs alongside the likelihood of Donald Trump suddenly realising he is more comparable to the rear end of a donkey than to a real-life presidential candidate. Zero to none.
Here are a few steps to try if you’re a bit shy:
Acknowledging the ask:
Usage: You would use this if you’re asking for a discount, or just trying to do some straight up hustling. It usually works best if you’re asking for something extreme, like for your interlocutor to put on a cape and mask and pretend to be a superhero (I’ve personally tried this, with great success). Doesn’t usually work when asking for a pay raise.
Technique: Acknowledge that you’re asking something for huge (be prepared to even over-exaggerate the enormity of what you’re asking), and then proceed to ask anyway. Tried and tested formulas include “I know this is really cheeky but…” , or “I have a huge favour to ask” followed by your big ask. Make sure you ask this with a big old smile on your face! It’s a lot harder to say no to someone when they’re smiling right at you, and you’ll feel a lot more resilient and invincible if they say no.
The strategic ask:
Usage: This usually works best if you’re asking for something strategic or financial (it’s all in the name!). In these situations, it’s best to bite the bullet, as people generally prefer to know where you stand rather than second guessing (or worse, having to look at the very sheepish expression of someone who is too afraid to ask). Of course, you will have to use your judgment to determine whether the situation requires some asking, but I think that asking never really hurts (and at least you’ll know the answer!)
Technique: I’m no expert, but I’ve found that the best way to do this is to remember why you want something, and why you’re the best person for it (whether that’s an opportunity, a job, or a raise). Remember to appreciate your own value. The most important thing is to feel that you’re worth whatever you’re asking for, to the point where you can take it or leave it if you aren’t given the right terms. Negotiation is a two way street, and it’s important for you to achieve something you think is worthwhile, as well as the other party also feeling like they can benefit from the situation. Provide them with context, explain your idea, and be prepared to follow it up with facts if necessary. But always, always ask!
The subtle ask:
Usage: This one is more for sneaky asks, like if you want an extra slice of cake, or perhaps you’d like to invite someone out to do something but in the most casual way possible.
Technique: What I’ve always found is if you’re asking for someone to participate in something, acting really excited about the thing (say, checking out a new cocktail bar or attending an event) somewhat lessens the emphasis on the fact that you’re asking. Asking if someone is interested in doing something, places more emphasis on them partaking rather than you doing the asking. The best way to ask subtly is to be casual about it. Be as cool as a cucumber. You’ll get through it.
Text by Rashina Gajjar