Imagine yourself sitting at a coffee shop, catching up on some reading, while sipping a warm, fresh cup of brew.
What you would do (and say) in that moment is a result of your worldview — a unique elixir of your past experiences, biases and beliefs.
Let’s imagine, you said no to that person’s dollar request. Maybe you didn’t have any cash on you. Or maybe you did, but something about the situation didn’t quite feel right.
Something happens to you in moments like this. Moments in which you say no to someone’s request.
The discomfort created by saying no to someone typically stimulates feelings of guilt you will feel compelled to resolve. Which means it’s highly unlikely you will say no to the next request.
In that coffee shop scenario, after no giving that person a dollar, if someone were to ask you to donate a dollar to a cause or something, there is a strong probability you would do it. And research backs this up.
I first became aware of what I call the “second ask effect” during my undergraduate studies. (I’m sure there’s a scientific name for it, but I haven’t discovered it yet.)
When I first learned about it, I decided to conduct my own experiment. I decided to approach a girl on campus and ask her out. Knowing the high probability she would say no (if she had any sense!), I would then follow-up with a second request and see what happened.
Here’s an abbreviated version of how it played out:
“Hi, I’m Keith,” I began. “I think we’re in class together on Tuesday afternoons. I would love to grab drinks or something with you sometime. Are you open to it?”
“I’m so sorry, but I can’t,” she feigned regret. “I have a boyfriend.”
“Completely understand,” I said. “How about I give you a lift to wherever you’re headed?”
“Sure. That’d be fine.”
I was floored. It worked.
So what’s the takeaway for you?
When you are preparing to ask someone for something, your tendency will be to focus on the cost of the “yes.” But the people you’ll be asking will focus on the cost of saying, “no.” They’ll be asking questions like, “How uncomfortable will saying no make me feel?” And, “How will saying no make me look to others?”
Each time you ask someone for something, work hard to give them a “yes” moment. Make sure what you’re asking them for helps them get an important job done in their lives functionally, emotionally and/or relationally.
Then, be prepared to follow-up with a second ask for those who say no to your lead request. Give them an opportunity to quickly resolve that no with a yes. (But please use this technique ethically, for the benefit of the people you serve and sell. Not at their expense.)
And remember that you, too, are a consumer. As a prospective buyer/donor, be aware that others may employ this technique on you. So pay attention to how you feel next time you say no to someone. And pay attention to what they ask for next.
If you’re interested in going deeper on this, then start here.
(Image by Barabeke on Flickr)