Want answers? Ask questions. And ask often.
How do you get better at a specific skill? Repeat it, practice it, explore it, and examine it. And always be looking for opportunities to improve it.
When you hear about the effort great athletes put into perfecting their game, you’ll often find that they were the first to arrive for practice and the last to leave. I’ve read about countless authors whose manuscripts were rejected forty or fifty times, and then on that fifty-first submission—eureka!
Whether you’re developing or simply polishing your asking skills, practice really does make perfect. And these tips will help improve your chances of getting what you want:
Ask the right person.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but people often make the mistake of assuming the people they’re speaking with have far more authority than they actually do. Figure out who has the ability to meet your request – and direct your question specifically to that person.
Ask to speak directly to the boutique owner about a refund or the customer service manager about a billing error. If you want Tuesday morning meetings to start earlier, ask the meeting chairperson, not the featured speaker. If a package is being delivered at an inconvenient time, ask your doorman, not the building manager, to look after it. When in doubt as to who has the authority or responsibility – just ask!
Ask at the right time.
Timing truly IS everything. Asking your girlfriend to marry you when she’s just returned from having a root canal is not good timing. Neither is asking your boss for a raise on Friday at 4:30 in the afternoon. Asking for a refund when you’re still hot under the collar is timing that can definitely be improved upon. There will be occasions when you have little choice, but whenever possible, evaluate the circumstances and decide if the timing is in your best interest.
Ask the right way.
In the ’60s, recording artist Bob Dylan railed against national injustices in what are now famous songs. He was smart, witty, and direct in his delivery, but his distinctive singing voice wasn’t always easy on the ears. Then along came the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary. The trio covered many a Dylan song, but with gorgeous harmonies and softer edges. The songs found a huge audience.
This story illustrates the adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” And nowhere is this truer than when it comes to asking. Remember that your attitude, body language, and tone of voice carry as much weight as your words.
Ask with confidence.
Start by believing that you deserve what you’re asking for – and expect a positive outcome. When you visualize a favorable response to your question prior to asking it, people can sense your self-confidence and hear it in your voice. When you focus on getting great results just prior to a meeting or encounter, chances are you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Excerpt from The Answer is Yes But First You Have to Ask, Copyright © 2012, Jim Charette, www.jimcharette.com .