“If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.”—Benjamin Franklin
Many of us wish we could be more effective in getting what we want in life. We fear that we may be rejected and are afraid to ask for help even when we know someone who could help us. We lack any real strategy to get what we want. Recent research shows that having strong communication skills (both verbal and non-verbal cues for communication) could improve your likeability and influence and helps you get what you want.
Whether it’s negotiating the price of a new home, convincing a prospect to purchase your product or service, getting a job interview, or building a successful team, your ability to persuade others could determine your success. Getting people to agree with, to accept your requests, or follow you requires both an understanding of the psychological underpinnings that influence people to saying yes along with strategies that work to sweeten others’ opinion of you and your offering.
Even the most outgoing extroverts assume that if you ask and someone says “no” then you can be fairly certain that person should be taken off your list as a bad prospect and move on to a new source. Recent research led by Daniel Newark, a doctoral candidate in organization studies, sheds light on how to manage and even reverse an initial rejection to your request. His studies show that we overestimate the chance that our requests for help will be denied — especially after we’ve been turned down before. And that suggests we should be asking for help more readily and from a wider set of people than we currently are.
People tend to grossly underestimate how likely others are to grant a favor. “They’re thinking not so much about the costs of saying yes as the costs of saying no: How awkward would it be for me to say no? How uncomfortable would I feel?” Surprisingly, research also showed that when a second request was made of the same person the percentage of people saying yes to the second request was higher than the percentage saying yes to the first request.” In other words, saying no the first time actually made people more likely to say yes the second time, even though the two favors were equally small.
“It can be very difficult for help seekers to appreciate the discomfort of refusing someone’s request for help not only once, but twice. Having already said no once, it can be more guilt-inducing and uncomfortable to say no a second time,” Newark explains, help seekers, meanwhile, don’t merely fail to anticipate this discomfort: They also read too much into the first no, seeing it as a sign that they’re probably dealing with a person who’s unhelpful in general.
Just Ask, and then if you don’t get a “yes,” ask again!
Out in the real world, these divergent thought processes create a kind of paradox: “Help seekers may be the least likely to ask for help from those people who in fact are the most likely to help them.” And over time, that means we tend to go back to the same small pool of people who’ve helped us in the past. This can happen in organizations, Newark points out, where those who say yes early on during their tenure get lots of requests in the future. That leads group members to an unfortunate tendency to overburden the same set of helpers while underutilizing other group members, who, this research suggests, might say yes if you try them again.
Newark says. “Even helpful people refuse to help sometimes. When someone tells us no, it could be because of circumstances that have nothing to do with a person’s willingness to help, and in the long run, we’ll be better off if we’re not quick to write people off after a single rejection.” The person might be too busy or preoccupied with other work at the time you asked. You may have been rejected because your timing was off so asking at a different time might achieve a different result—a yes.
Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, author of the bestseller, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, gets more specific about how exactly to persuade and influence customers to buy without explicitly selling to them. These principles apply in asking for a recommendation, or in for an interview or a promotion. Here are two examples of tactics that you could use when trying to be persuasive. He says that if you make yourself likeable and become a respected authority, you’ll improve your chances of persuading others to become your customers.
These principles could apply to asking for a job recommendation or for an interview. Those who persist in asking and are likeable and respected will clearly have a better chance in getting their requests answered (may it be for a sale or a new job). The job seeker and the salesperson can benefit from developing and honing the same skills: Become an expert in your field, develop those traits of a likeable person and don’t fear rejection. Perhaps a strategy to get what you want could be reframing what “no” really means when selling something. The first time someone says no, imagine they really said, “maybe later.” Then find another time that might be better for that person and ask a second time. You could risk being a nuisance, but then again, you’ll never know for sure that the person really didn’t want your offering unless you try…one more time.