The Risk in Not Asking

The greatest risk that most people take is the one that prevents them from getting what they want, need and deserve. That risk: They don’t ask for what they want, need and deserve. Click To Tweet

The greatest risk that most people take is the one that prevents them from getting what they want, need and deserve. That risk: They don’t ask for what they want, need and deserve.

Many people would rather go without what they want or deserve than to ask for it and risk hearing a “no.” They fear that “no” means much more than it does. They’re afraid a “no” to a request for a raise or a promotion means they’re going to lose their jobs or lose face or respect. They suspect a “no” to a proposal for new project or a big idea will sour their managers on every future idea. They’ve convinced themselves that if they ask for a favor, a “no” could mean the person who turns them down will never speak to them again.

I suppose any of that is a very, very remote possibility. The fact is that even if you do hear a “no,” asking for what you want really doesn’t put you at risk at all.

Most of the time, the absolute worst outcome of a request is hearing the “no” itself. Nothing more.

The greater risk is not asking. If you don’t ask, the answer is a guaranteed “no.” If you do ask, you at least have a shot at a “yes.”

There’s an old sales adage that goes: “If you’re not selling a “yes,” then you’re buying a “no.”

I have a friend, Danny, who is a superstar at work. He’s smart, talented, hard-working and reliable. He’s charming and funny, and everyone at his office likes him, including his bosses.

Danny earns a lot less than he knows he deserves. But he refuses to ask for a raise. He thinks that if he does a good job and stays out of trouble, his bosses will appreciate him and offer him more money. But year after year, he does not get a raise other than cost-of-living. Year after year, Danny suspects that the bosses do not like or appreciate him. Year after year, he does not want to risk his position by asking for a raise. He is afraid that if he asks for a raise, his bosses will not only say “no,” but they will fire him.

So he doesn’t ask.

Are you waiting for your bosses to recognize your worthiness? Are you waiting for your manager to reward you with a big raise? If you are, I’m sorry to say, you’re going to be waiting for a long time.

I ask for what I want: new business, more money, extra help from co-workers, support for my ideas. Most of the time, I hear a “yes.” When I do hear a “no,” I consider it a “no for now,” not a “no forever.”

That’s because the “no” isn’t personal. Someone could have any number of reasons to refuse a request. Your boss might not have the budget for a raise this year. Your co-worker might have a schedule conflict that prevents her from swapping shifts with you. Your manager might not have time to read your proposal this week.

I give people the benefit of the doubt. I also ask them why they can’t agree to my request—so I’ll know if modifying it might get me to that “yes” I want to hear. Or if asking another time might get me a different answer.

It can be hard to ask for what you want. But consider this: You deserve to have what you want and need. And if your bosses, co-workers or even family members don’t recognize that without your having to bring it to their attention, then bring it to their attention.

Start by asking for an easy favor from someone you trust and who knows you well. The answer will probably be “yes.” If it isn’t, ask why. You might learn something about your approach, your request, yourself or your friend.

But you’re not going to ruin the relationship, or lose your job or blow your chances.

What you will do is stop taking the risk that you will never get what you want, need or deserve. Asking isn’t the risk. Not asking is.

Asking isn’t the risk. Not asking is. Click To Tweet
Dr. Cindy McGovern
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About Author

DR. CINDY MCGOVERN is known as the “First Lady of Sales.” She speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership, and is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. Dr. Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm in San Francisco.

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