Making an ask of someone, whether for work, fundraising, your job search, or a friend, is difficult to say the least. But I’ve found again and again that it’s always better to take a risk and ask. As Deborah Mills-Scofield writes in HBR:
“When we don’t use the “Power of the Ask” we are in essence saying “no” before the question has even been asked — saying no to opportunities that change our businesses, our organizations, ourselves…and actual lives. So even if it feels uncomfortable, look for even just a small way can you use the “Power of the Ask” in your network — for someone you work for, with or manage. Make this your year of the Law of Accelerating Returns.”
I’m always working to make my asks better. So instead of giving my own advice, I thought I’d share some of my favorite articles about making asks.
18 Keys to Engaging Mentors and Funders by Teju Ravilochan
“Building relationships isn’t just about charisma and polish and heart. It’s about discipline. This post breaks down what to do before, during, and after a meeting with a prospective mentor or funder to dramatically increase the chances of creating a long-lasting, mutually valuable relationship…Build Strong Friends is an acronym with each word representing a different phase of engagement.
- Build outlines what you do before a meeting,
- Strong outlines what you do during the meeting, and
- Friends outlines what you do after the meeting.”
Your ‘ask’ is not ‘by the way’ by Sasha Dichter
“Your meeting has a purpose. There’s something you are trying to create in the world and some role that you hope the person across the table from you might play in making that creation happen…But if the moment you come to that thing, that “ask”, if you find that you’re muttering quickly under your breath; or, just as bad, if what you really are hoping will happen comes across as just one in a list of things that you rattle off all too quickly in the last five minutes of the meeting – if that happens you have to ask yourself why you had the meeting in the first place.”
Social Capital, Trust, and Investment by Bennett Resnik
“The core value of social capital retention is trust. Trust between individuals becomes trust between strangers; ultimately, it becomes a shared set of core values, assets, and opportunities within networks as a whole. Without network interaction, trust decays; at a certain point, this decay can begin to manifest itself into caustic relationships. The perception of social capital retention maintains that creating or recreating connection and trust entails face-to-face interaction.”
Small asks first by David Cohen
“A small ask is better. Remember that you’re being introduced to someone who you know is getting this type of request all the time, but has offered to help. Just ask for one thing, and ask for it in the form of a response by email. If you have 3 questions, ask them by email instead of forcing the person to get on the phone with you real time.”
The Three Ways to Introduce Two People Over Email by The Startup of You
“As we talk about in the chapter “It Takes a Network,” a good way to strengthen your network is to make an introduction between two people who would benefit from knowing each other… You’ve instantly bestowed social pressure on both the recipients. Because you know each of the recipients, they will feel social pressure to at least respond (whether you intend this or not). The worst introductory emails make busy people resent having to respond to someone who they (1) don’t know and (2) aren’t sure why they’re being introduced to them.”
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (TED Talk)
“Don’t make people pay for music, says Amanda Palmer: Let them.”
When Someone Asks You for a Favor by Daniel Gulati
“Here’s the one trick I use to separate those I actually help from those I choose to ignore: Qualify anyone who asks you for a favor. In other words, kindly direct the person to take an action to show that he genuinely wants what he’s asking for. Get in the habit of qualifying, and you’ll immediately cut down the number of requests you engage with by at least half, and most importantly, your time will be spent on those that need, want, and appreciate your help the most.”
And don’t forget to return the favor. Karma will always work in your direction, but also because you genuinely want to help others. As Scofield-Mills argues:
“Think of it as the Law of Accelerating Returns — the more you share your network, the more people share it in return and the more the rate of sharing accelerates. For me, my network has literally and figuratively been a source of survival. For most of us, networks have played a critical role in our lives, whether we realize it or not.”
Have more tips? Share them in the comments!