No matter how much success you’ve achieved, or how high your position is within your firm, chances are you still need to persuade people at work to help you out from time to time. It’s a fraught area for most people. As it turns out, there are strategies you can use, based in behavioral science, that will make the ask a lot easier and increase your chances of getting a “yes.” And per usual, it all comes down to timing.
When you need to ask for help its often the hardest time to make the ask. On one hand, this is one reason we build networks in the first place—to surround ourselves with a support system. On the other hand, admitting you need help and seeking it out is no easy task. Here are six steps to help you get what you need…
…when you hear “no.”
Takeaway: Before reaching out for a favor, take some time to think about your goals and how this person might help you reach them. Lead with your biggest request, and if you hear “no,” be sure to have a smaller request in your back pocket.
…when you hear “yes.”
Takeaway: When someone agrees to do something small for you, make it clear that you appreciate his time, and let him cool off a bit before you ask for more. And if you’re wondering which of these two techniques to use (foot in the door vs. door in the face) don’t stress too much; both strategies are effective, but neither is more effective than the other.
…when your relationship is shaky.
Takeaway: If you want to warm up icy relations with a colleague, ask him for something small, and thank him for his time. He’ll be more likely to smile at you in the break room, and more likely to do you favors in the future.
…when you have to ask for something big.
Takeaway: Hunger can make people foggy and irritable, so if you really need a favor, wait until the early afternoon (or take your colleague out to lunch) to maximize your chances.
…when you’ve been out of touch.
Takeaway: Sinek advises leading with your request and saving the chit-chat for later. By making your request at the end of an email, he points out, you’re actually telling the recipient that you don’t really care about Billy’s karate classes, but you feel like you have to ask to get what you want. Be upfront with what you need, and the pleasantries will sound a lot more pleasant.
…when you’re on hard times.
Takeaway: It may be difficult to admit that you’re struggling, but being open about the challenges you’re facing makes it much more likely that you’ll get the support you need. And no, that doesn’t mean crying on the boss’s shoulder; it’s as simple as saying “I can’t do this. Can you help?” to get people in your corner.
Ultimately, your level of success in asking for help will come down to the strength of your connections. Healthy relationships breed reciprocity and will pre-dispose your contacts toward helping you. So, begin by investing in your network, and you’ll reap the rewards when it counts the most.
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