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Unlocking Influence blog

Ask And You Shall Receive: Why Asking Questions Is An Influential Skill

In order to have influence over our lives and careers, it is absolutely imperative that we learn how to ask questions.

In our next webinar in the ‘Unlocking…’ series, we’re talking about Unlocking Influence and how asking for what we really want can positively impact our careers.

Of course, a yes can very rarely – if ever – be guaranteed, but there are ways we can massively increase our chances.

A small exercise in the importance of asking

Consider the below questions and think about how many you’d be able to answer YES to:

  1. Are you missing what you need to get to that next step in your career right now?
  2. Are you settling for, or getting, less than you deserve?
  3. Do you feel like you’re missing out on opportunities?
  4. Are there many things going on in your company which are well within your capabilities but don’t come your way?
  5. Do you think your skills could be put to better use?
  6. Are you not getting the response you were hoping for when you do ask about the roles and opportunities that are perfect for your skills?

If you’re answering yes to the statements above, one of the pain points could be that you’re simply not asking the right questions. Sometimes, that is all that’s standing between you and the next step in your career, not missing out on opportunities, and being given what you deserve.

Why is asking questions so intimidating?

Asking questions can be incredibly nerve-wracking. When we’re faced with situations like this, it’s always helpful to start from the very beginning. We can ask ourselves:

Why is this happening?

If we’re not getting the opportunities we think we deserve or seeing our careers grow in the ways they should – why not? What questions do we need to ask to change this?

Let’s explore the common reasons some people might be too afraid to ask questions:

  1. We’re waiting for somebody to come and ask us

A few years ago, I was interviewing a senior partner at a large consultancy firm. She was describing to me her journey towards becoming partner – something she was very qualified for. She said that she’d been waiting for many years for that tap on the shoulder letting her know it was her time to shine.

An accomplished, talented, amazing woman had just been waiting for someone else to tell her what she deserved Instead of asking for it herself! Although her story ended in success and she did achieve the position she wanted, it was many years overdue.

The truth is, if other people don’t know what we want, they can’t possibly know what to ask us. And even if they do know what we want, the likelihood is they won’t come and hand it to us on a silver platter without us asking. Life simply doesn’t work that way.

  1. We’re not asking for what we want

The importance – and benefit – of asking for what we want can be evidenced in the following example:

Last week, I was skiing in France. On the first day, it was beautifully sunny and we had lunch at a restaurant with a large terrace. There were two couples in front of us waiting to be seated. I could hear both couples talking about how they hoped to be seated at the last remaining table where both seats were in the sun. However, I watched as neither couple was shown to that prime table.

When it was our turn, we were also led past the sunny table. As we walked by, I asked the server, “It’s such a lovely day. Is it possible to get a table where we are both in the sun?” The server quickly looked around, saw the table we had just walked past and answered, “Sure!”

The two couples who had been seated before us were within hearing distance during this exchange. It’s possible they might have thought I was quite cheeky for asking to be seated at the sunny table, but honestly, I think it’s more likely that they were kicking themselves for not asking.

Most people assume they will be told no, so they don’t even bother asking for fear of rejection or embarrassment! In life – and especially in the workplace – often we only get one chance at something.

  1. We’re afraid of rejection

This is something that holds a lot of people back. We’re all programmed on an evolutionary level to be afraid of rejection, but there are ways we can manage this fear and overcome it.

Instead of just avoiding the problem and asking for less because we think we’re more likely to receive a yes, we need to get to the root of the problem – the cause of our fear. Asking for less is going to result in us getting things we don’t even really want.

  1. We’re not asking at all

Of all the above reasons, this, perhaps, is the worst one. In her book Ask Outrageously! The Secret To Getting What You Really Want*, Linda Byars Swindling states that it was discovered that 80 per cent of people acknowledged that they could get much better results if they just learned to improve how they actually ask for things.

Asking has all sorts of emotions connected – fear, embarrassment, lack of confidence. There are many reasons why we might not ask at all including:

  • We don’t want to ‘bother’ the people that we’re asking
  • We are concerned we’ll say the wrong words or ask the wrong way
  • We’re worried we will look embarrassed or stupid
  • We are scared we’ll be told no

Asking is a skill, but it’s much easier to learn than people realise and its importance cannot be stressed enough – let’s not forget that not asking altogether is a choice in itself. Sometimes the consequences of not asking and missing out on an opportunity are far worse than had we just asked in the first place.

How does our ability to ask questions benefit businesses?

Unlocking our influence and learning how to ask questions is not just important for us but for the people around us – those we work with, those we live with, and those we interact with. We need to learn how to ask questions on behalf of others, too.

For instance, when we’re in positions of leadership, it’s not uncommon that we’ll be required to ask questions for our team – perhaps they need more resources, or there’s a challenge that needs to be overcome. If we can’t do this and we fail to get those resources because of our inability to ask, we’re setting ourselves and others up for failure.

Additionally, if there are departments within businesses that aren’t equipped with the skills and influence to collaborate with other departments and discuss their individual and collective needs, there will be vast areas of business that aren’t operating as they should be.

How can we unlock our influence?

Of course, there are no absolute guarantees in life that you will always get a yes, but there are ways to massively increase your chances.

In our March webinar, Unlocking Influence, we’ll be exploring the two main reasons people say no, the biggest mistake people make when asking, and sharing a four step pressure-free way to ask for what you want. This learning is so crucial to business development and creating a team of people who don’t rest on their laurels and let opportunities pass them by, but rather are equipped with the skills and influence to identify what they deserve and to ask for it in the best way possible.

If this sounds like something your business could benefit from, get in touch to see how we can Elevate your influence to its greatest potential by teaching your team how to ask the right questions!

Don’t forget to come and join the conversation on LinkedIn, too!


*Ask Outrageously! The Secret To Getting What You Really Want, Linda Byars Swindling