Asking: Networking's Main Ingredient

It should be no surprise. It’s vital for all of us to hone our asking abilities. We constantly need to ask our network for help, for all sorts of information and referrals.

Young woman at the beach

Young woman at the beach by Alexey Tkachenko


Let me tell you my little summer story.

To this day, I still feel envy and awe at one of my friend’s bold approach to a beautiful girl.

I vividly recall when we spotted this goddess on the beach, which made my two buddies and I stop on our tracks. We used to comb the beach for nice girls all day long during that summer. Somehow, I felt this perfect number 10, a few years older, was out of our league.

It felt funny. We would always announce the damsel in distress, to get first pickings. Not this time. We were all silent for a minute, or two. It didn’t take long for Dan to ask for cigarettes and sunshades, and stride off confidently to meet her. Needless to say, our unpretentious looking friend had a great time with the girl.

What was his secret? How did he garner what seemed an unrelenting valor to ask?

I know. Some of you are jumping to say that I lacked the “cojones”.
True. I must admit it. But, a little understanding of the situation could have saved the day.

I’ll explain a few facts to improve our chances of getting a yes for an answer.

  1. Your expectations are negatively biased
  2. The first thing you need to understand is that studies show that people respond a lot better than what we expect of them. On average, twice as better than what we anticipate. And, that’s only for the guys that were enrolled in Francis Flynn’s experiment. There were quite a few that said “No way I’m signing for that”, once they learned that they would have to go out and ask.

    If we stop to think for a moment, sure, we get a warm glow for doing the right thing. We don’t want to be seen as mean, —with exceptions , of course.

  3. A direct approach is better
  4. If you approach your subject in person or by phone, your odds of getting a yes for an answer are far better.

    It’s harder for the other person to say no when you ask them directly. It’s a lot easier to dismiss that letter or email. It also makes it easier for you to overcome objections. Don’t be pushy, make your first goal a soft one —maybe, just another meeting.

  5. Baby steps will carry you a long way
  6. In their excellent book, Switch, the Heath brothers present this eye opening experience. The residents of a neighborhood are asked to place a huge billboard on their front lawn in support of the environment (or whatever). Sure enough, their reaction to the billboard support turned out to be a flop.

    Next, in a similar neighborhood, the same kids asked the residents to place on their windows a small sticker in support of the environment. This time, to no one’s astonishment, their success rate was impressive.

    The interesting part of the study was the discovery that it was a lot easier to “sell” the billboard to the residents who had already accepted the sticker. Clearly, the residents were more willing to open themselves to a larger commitment.

    Then, make sure you take a first small step because it will take your asking success rate to the moon.

    Having said that, it’s up to you to find out how big are the baby steps for the girl before you. Some like their glasses with white wine, while others prefer double vodka. In case of doubt, push the envelope. You can always back up. On the other hand, you’ll never sell your book with a boring cover.

  7. Bring a big smile, look them in the eye
  8. Nobody likes to be around other peoples’ problems. Please, leave them at home. It’s also the first benefit that you should bring to the table, —with many more to follow. Give them a good reason to want to be around you.

  9. Introduce yourself
  10. Prepare a brief and clear description of who you are, and what you do.
    —Hi. I’m Phil. I study at NYU and I’m spending a couple of weeks at my cousin’s house.

  11. Tell them what you find interesting about them
  12. You must have studied your subject in detail.
    —I couldn’t help myself but looking at your beautiful eyes.

  13. Tell them why you’re there
  14. Try to find common ground that could benefit both of you.
    —I had to come to learn if you were really as interesting as you look.

  15. Offer something without asking in return
  16. In order to establish trust, we must be generous. Plant a good seed and you will never be in need. Let it be something small but considerate.
    —I’m thirsty, would you like me to bring you something to drink?

  17. Find a deeper connection
  18. We all belong to many tribes. Ask, ask, and ask some more.

    You may have a friend in common. You may have lived for a time in the same city. You may have friends that went to the same school. You may have traveled to the same place. Your family’s ancestors came from the same region of the world. You both like the same team, the same sport. Your brother practices the same sport.

    If you find that both of you belong to some tribe, then, automatically you will be treated with the special deference that all tribe members bestow upon each other.

  19. Don’t leave without setting a followup appointment
  20. You’ve gone this far. The more you get to know her, the more you learn about each other. The friendlier, she will be. Setup a small followup request.
    —Would you like to go for a walk at sunset?

  21. Give her a call now and then
  22. You must strive to stay in her tribe. If the relationship chills, you may lose the privileges of belonging to her magic circle of love.

It isn’t that hard. Is it?

3 Comments to “Asking: Networking's Main Ingredient”

  1. Michelle Barry Franco 27 October 2010 at 12:43 am #

    These are such good tips for building relationships of any kind. I particularly love “tell them what you find interesting about them” and “give her a call now and then.” Sage advice for business connections (and romantic ones, too.) Thanks for some nice tips in an unexpected context format.

  2. […] already gained and rec­og­nize a related form of the baby step effect from the pre­vi­ous Asking: Network’s main ingre­di­ent post with the Heath broth­ers eye-opening exper­i­ment: sell win­dow sticker first, then […]

  3. Best hosting service 5 April 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Really awesome post. And all of these tips are useful for everyone to build a relationship. And her story is good. Thanks for these tips and useful for me in my relationship.


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