4 tips to ask with confidence

June 7, 2013

Oh, there are so many things that give us the jitters when it comes to asking for something we really want, like a date. Or a promotion. Or a loan. Or time off. And we all tend to handle it in one of three ways:

The safe-but-sorry route: Find reasons not to ask and stay stuck.
The close-your-eyes-and-jump route: Ask before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it.
The confident route: Swapping out fear of rejection for motivation.

We’re partial to the confident route. It diminishes the scary part — those forces working against your confidence (What if she laughs at me? I’m not important enough. I don’t have what it takes. I never have the right answers.) And at the same time, it builds up the forces that will propel you forward. In short, you prioritize your needs over your fears.

Here’s how it works.

1. Ask yourself questions to look at your situation differently. The answers may take some digging, so give yourself time to ponder. Talking the answers through with a trusted friend might be helpful, too.

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To lessen fear about the other person’s reaction
• What’s the worst that can happen if I ask?
• What’s the likelihood of that happening?
• If the worst does come true, how long will it take me to recover and come up with Plan B?

To lessen fear about yourself
• What am I worried about doing or not doing when I ask?
• How can I avoid that?

To build up your motivation
• What will my regret be if I don’t ask?
• Do I want to live with that regret?

2. Now paint yourself the best picture possible. You know how easy it is to imagine what can go wrong. Flip that. Spend at least 10 minutes imagining what life will be like if your request is granted. Nice, right? Is it nice enough to ask for? If not, keep daydreaming until your picture becomes irresistible.

3. Once you’re psyched to take action, spend time preparing.
Think about what you’re going to say
• Find common ground to start the conversation on a friendly note.
• Be clear on what you want to ask for. It sounds obvious, but in stressful moments it’s easy to become flummoxed.
• Have an unselfish reason for your request. If you’re asking someone on a date, it might be to “get to know you better.” If it’s for a raise, make it about your performance on the job, rather than the new car payments you have to make.
• Don’t apologize or soften your request with a phrase like “you may have thought of this….”

Think about how you’re going present yourself
Body language speaks volumes about your self-confidence. This short checklist can help you audit your unconscious movements. (If you want to supercharge your presence, consider the astonishing research from Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy.)
• Smile often — and sincerely.
• Look people in the eye, but don’t stare at them.
• Sit or stand straight.
• Uncross your arms.
• Don’t fidget (nail biting, hair twirling, jackhammering knee) or touch your face.
• Keep hands out of your pockets.

Practice full out
• Think about how you act when you’re feeling confident in your life. Do you smile and laugh freely? Do you naturally pause so others can speak? Bring this to your performance.
• Talk to the other person as a fellow human being, not someone who holds power over you.
• Practice asking for things that hold less consequence for you — and learn from each request.
• Make a list of things you don’t want to do during the encounter. Give it to a friend who you’re comfortable practicing in front of so he or she can nudge you when a “don’t” pops up in your run-throughs.
• Try out Unstuck’s “Mirror, Mirror” tool, where you can record and playback different versions to help you decide on your approach. You can download the free Unstuck iPad app here.

4. Finally, just before you make your request, do something to calm yourself (listen to a favorite song, watch a funny video, drink a cup of tea, play with your pet). Then exhale, smile, and ask with confidence.

PRINTABLE TIP CARD #2: Tips to ask for something with confidence

Next week: What kind of procrastinator are you?
Last week: 3 steps that saved my confidence and my career

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