I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up I was a little bit of a dork. Okay, okay… a HUGE dork. I sold comic books (and incidentally made 100x what my contemporaries made in allowance but that didn’t stop them from teasing me). I weighed 98 pounds and my nose was 11 of it.
What came along with this dorkiness (aside from therapy bills I still pay today) was a fear of rejection. If you ask out enough girls and get laughed at enough times, you become conditioned not to ask for things in the purest form of Pavlovian conditioning a young man can endure.
While request avoidance as a mechanism for pain avoidance is wholly appropriate as a skinny pimply teenager, it can destroy business opportunities as an adult. As I was launching thoughtLEADERS, I had this fear of asking people for favors or for help. Why? I don’t exactly know. It was a combination of not wanting to impose upon people and not wanting to hear “no” or be rejected.
“So what?” you say? “So you didn’t ask for help. No big deal, right?” Wrong.
The result of such behavior was I probably got off to a slower start than I should have. I missed a few opportunities. I probably blew a couple of deals. And for what? So I wouldn’t hear “no” or so I wouldn’t be uncomfortable “imposing” on someone. Stupid, huh? Sometimes we’re our own biggest impediments to our own success.
I finally decided “why not?” and realized the worst thing that could happen would be someone would say “no.” I wouldn’t die or be maimed and my psychologist said I was past all my childhood rejection fears (well… mostly past them…). You know where this story goes, right?
I hope you’ve heard of a very talented guy named Keith Ferrazzi. He’s a busy guy – very busy. Bestselling author of Never Eat Alone. Huge keynote speaker. Just had another book launched (Who’s Got Your Back). I met him at a conference once and he was a genuinely magnanimous person.
He was interested in what people had to say and he seemed very willing to help someone out if he was able. One day while I sat thinking about new blog topics, I had this brain fart of “I should ask Keith if he’d write a guest blog.” Then that rejection fear kicked in and I almost stopped myself in that self-defeating way. “Nah. He’s probably too busy writing his next bestseller or giving a keynote speech somewhere important. There’s no point in asking him because he’ll have to politely decline or even worse he just won’t respond to the request.”
Then I thought about it and said “heck, it’s an email and all he can do is say no.” He didn’t. He replied a few hours after I sent the request with “I’d be happy to help and I’ll also link your blog to mine.”
Not only did I get what I asked for, I got a whole lot more – I got a guest post and became linked to his very successful blog. New opportunities to help him also popped up (I’ve been adding to his newly-launched Keith Ferrazzi Community and wrote a guest post for his blog). That one request has blossomed into cool content for my readers and stronger links between my business and his. And to think I almost didn’t send it because I was afraid of “no.”
Did you catch the Joseph Michelli guest post? Read it here. Again… busy guy, bestselling author. Fear. I asked anyway. He said yes and it became a great opportunity for both of us. He gets to promote his writing and his books (The Starbucks Experience and the new one: The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company – buy ‘em by searching the Amazon search box on the right sidebar! I’m even quoted in the Ritz-Carlton one!) and I get to expose his readers and fans to my blog and my business. We’ve both benefited from me overcoming that silly little rejection protection monkey on my back.
“Hey Ed, want to write a guest blog?”
“Sure! Why don’t you write one for my blog while you’re at it?” (You can get to my post by clicking here).
Net net, both audiences win as did Ed and I because I wasn’t afraid to ask for help.
The flip side of all this is when someone asks something of you, don’t reply with the pat “no.” It’s an easy answer to give. It obligates you to nothing. Unfortunately, not only have you reinforced a fear of rejection in someone who summoned the courage to ask you for help but you’ve damaged your personal brand (word gets around). You’ve probably missed out on some cool opportunities. Graciously consider the request and, if you’re able, help them out or offer alternative assistance. One day you will probably be on the other side of the request and you’ll want the same.
If you’re carrying that nasty little rejection protection monkey, give him a smack (now PETA will be on my case). What’s the worst that can happen? The request recipient will say “no.” Two innocuous little letters. Are you going to let that stop you? Well then what are you waiting for – it never hurts to ask…
What cool opportunities have come your way just from asking for help? What tips can you offer other readers? Please share.