If you never ask the answer is always no. We all heard this one once, twice or hundreds of times in our adult life. But why do we still shy away from actually exercising the question mark? Our fear for loss outweighs our potential for gain, behaviour studies show. This idea around human decision making goes beyond the books, as I observed this in my own (il)logic. If you backed down from a project you wanted to pursue at work or beyond, big chances are it could be traced to asking one person a single question.
Over the last two years, I reached out to multiple organizations. The questions were to collaborate, conduct interviews or attend exclusive events. As an after work journalist, I knew this was a valuable skill to practice. And practice I did. As a result, some of my most meanings and recognised projects grew from involving others and letting a yes or no become a motivator. The methods I created to get over my fear of asking were not listening to wise quotes, but focusing on the positives.
Think Through What You Want
Before asking for anything, work through what it is you actually want. Understanding your motivations, expectations and requirements will ease your nervousness. By thinking over these items, you are able to envision the conversation and its obstacles. In turn, this will give you the confidence to answer any follow up questions with conviction. Don’t make someone figure out what you want. Making it clear gives you a better chance of getting it.
Feel Way Better After Asking
Perhaps you have been considering this question for over a year. Or maybe only for a week, but every minute. You must be exhausted, or even a bit anxious. It will continue to weigh on your mind and emotions until your question gets out in the open. After I pose any question, I am instantly relieved. Why didn’t I do that earlier is always my first thought. It’s like going to the gym. When you consider the after effects, it makes that first step seem 10x more appealing.
“No’s” Aren’t Personal
I asked for some pretty ridiculous things, like an interview with Simone Rocha (London-based fashion designer equivalent to Rihanna), invitation to Amsterdam Fashion Week, and even London Fashion Week. If someone could help, they would. The “nos” I did receive meant someone wanted to support my cause, but either time, business needs or priorities did not allow. We all want to put down a stepping stone to help another reach their goal. Just remember that a “no” is not personal. It’s more … “maybe another time”.
Didn’t Hear Back? Try Again
There were a number of instances I emailed back-and-forth with a new acquaintance, and then heard nothing. My imagination kicked up assumptions of rejection. Possibly the person on the other end did not like me after awhile or just gave up. This has never been the case. Usually the email was buried or overlooked. Consider that they too have lots of items to take care of in a day. If you’ve done the polite email follow up, and even did another, it’s time to call.
Consider it a Game
Months into asking for more opportunities, it became this sort of game. What were the limits? How far could I get to achieve my dreams? When we were kids, we tested our parents in our actions and words. Years of being told what to do weakened our convictions. Belief in the permanence of boundaries discouraged our efforts. Get over the whole “older and wiser” bit. Be a kid again and see where asking can take you.
Asking for may people is not easy, heck, it did not come naturally to me. But the double win of stretching my comfort zone and retrieving a new opportunity was well worth the uneasiness. Why let one question stand in the way of a 200% benefit? I am no mathematician - only a designer - but that sounds pretty good to me. This is one promise I can make (without math thankfully): asking gets more fun as you continue to practice.