Ask for Something, You Just Might Get It

A few weeks ago, while puttering about shopping with my family in San Francisco, I encountered a stranger dressed in brick red and black leather, eyelinered and mustachioed. It was pure kismet that I got the opportunity to witness them step into two shops I like, describe their skills, gender identity, and professional background and ask if there were any openings. It was one of the bravest things I've seen outside a therapy room in a long time. I thought about how they opened themselves up to rejection to get to opportunity. This had to be nerve-racking, but it was so efficient: I watched this strategy work to varying degrees at two storefronts. They likely got a job out of it. This person wasn't a client of mine, just someone moving through life with a level of honest-to-goodness gumption I rarely get to see. They were also intuitively leveraging research demonstrating that we are more persuasive than we give ourselves credit for (Bohns, 2016), particularly when making requests in person (Roghanizad & Bohns, 2017).   So, how can you emulate this person? You can ask for something you need or want, preferably in person. Start with something you view as reasonable, where the barrier to asking is your own fear of inconveniencing the other person. The answer may surprise you..*

Bohns, V. K. (2016). (Mis) Understanding our influence over others: A review of the underestimation-of-compliance effect. Current Directions in Psychological Science25(2), 119-123.

Roghanizad, M. M., & Bohns, V. K. (2017). Ask in person: You're less persuasive than you think over email. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology69, 223-226.

*We will take a look at the realities pertaining to how race, gender, and disability may impact the success of assertiveness attempts in future posts.

Nehjla Mashal, PhD

Edited by Jordan Jones, LICSW