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July 01, 2009

88 things I discovered

Findings from the hard data coming next. But first...

88 things I discovered
in 365 days of asking

Feel free to send, email or reproduce this list. Just give credit to The Daily Asker and include a link to my blog.

And feel free to contribute your own insights to the list by adding comments below.

1. You seriously have nothing to lose by asking.

2. Actually, you have way more to lose by not asking.

3. Persisting pays off in direct and indirect ways.

4. Forming a habit of asking leads to unimagined opportunities and benefits.

5. You get more when you have high expectations.

6. People are amazingly generous.

7. People are playful and up for adventure.

8. Even prices printed in black ink are not set in stone.

9. Every price is its own form of request: "Will you pay X for Y?" Most people either pay up or walk away. The third, rarer, choice is negotiating.

10. Even if getting rejected seems scary or embarrassing, the worst sting lasts 3 seconds max -- and you grow stronger every time.

11. Asking others encourages you to ask yourself first: what do I want? what do I need?

12. Department stores are a challenge -- I never got a discount there, despite media buzz that they're cutting deals left and right; maybe I needed to buy bigger ticket items, or maybe I approached the wrong individuals. Oh well! There's always Year Two.

13. Craigslisters always rewarded my asking.

14. Small requests lead to bigger and better and bolder ones.

15. Being generous is lovely. Just not when you're giving your time or talents at an underpaid job.

16. Asking for a fair salary when the other party acts reluctant is tough.

17. Asking for a fair salary when you don't have a job is also really tough.

18. But both are so worth it. So research, practice and remember you are awesome.

19. If you can afford to do so, asking and failing is better than working a job where you're not paid enough, not respected or not meeting your potential. Tough times, bad economy, no work, but something to keep in mind for when things pick up and/or you do have some leeway.

20. Plan who you'll ask. Manager or employee? Marketing or finance department? What's your inroad to success?

21. Plan how you'll ask. Helpless or assertive? Persuasive or demanding? Flirty or professional? Switch midway if that's what it takes. This part of negotiating isn't an art or a science, it's human nature. Trust your gut.

22. Asking is not hard for all women. Some women are amazing askers!

23. According to my readers, asking is also hard for some men, immigrants, foreigner visitors, minorities.

24. It's easier to ask when you feel you have nothing to lose. That's obvious. But keeping that in mind, aim to translate that confidence into transactions where the outcome does matter.

25. No one but you cares if you ask and fail. In the wise words of one reader, "No one is watching you." Not the waiter, not the cashier, not the bouncer. Maybe the other insecure ninnies in line, and who cares about them? So don't let shyness hold you back.

26. Don't worry about exploiting the other side by asking. He or she can decline.

27. But remember there are cases where you have more power, status or income, and the other side feels compelled to comply.

28. A good test for how reasonable and fair your request is to ask yourself first, How would I react if the roles were reversed? Would I feel obligated to comply because I'm desperate? Assuming you're not Jeffrey Dahmer, that is.

29. Use empathy to identify with the other side -- and use that to your advantage.

30. What struck me as a big request or favor was quite likely inconsequential or even entertaining to who I asked.

31. On the other hand, in more complicated situations don't assume you know the other side's motives or intentions. Try to find out, but never assume.

32. Libraries are hard places to ask. Especially at my grad school!!!

33. Asking someone to stop doing something is less often successful than asking someone to start.

34. Surround yourself with good people -- people who reward asking, questioning, venturing, seeking. Open minded and ambitious people.

35. Sounding apologetic is the easiest way to ensure failure. Act like you own the place, or like you're best friends with the person you're asking!

36. You get more by courtesy and flattery than by demanding or complaining.

37. People rarely ask back. That means they are missing their own opportunities. So if you get asked, and want to maximize your position, try asking back. ("Can I have this for 10 percent off" "How about 5 percent?" That type of reply was very rare.)

38. Study and mimic the manners and methods of effective askers and negotiators.

39. Mine experienced askers and negotiators for info, advice, techniques.

40. Speaking of mimicking, one strategy during a negotiation is to copy the other side's lingo. "That rate is too high." "Well, I'm afraid it's too low."

41. Another strategy for getting a low price on services, travel, etc is pitting competitors against one another and asking for the best bid.

42. Another strategy is to advocate for your goal as an optimized solution for both parties. This is one rational, cerebral version of persuasion.

43. Emotional and pleading persuasion is also effective under the right circumstances.

44. Sometimes you should simply tell, not ask. "I'm taking my lunch break," not "Can I take my lunch break?" Don't give someone the opportunity to say no.

45. If you doubt yourself while asking, you'll probably fail. The other party can sense you don't believe the query is worthwhile and it becomes much easier to say no.

46. People ask a lot more frequently than they realize -- so it's not a big stretch to make it a routine or ask more adventurously.

47. It's easier to ask on behalf of other people, harder to ask for yourself. Hmm... maybe having a partner in crime is a good approach. You ask for him/her, and vice versa. Something to test out in Year Two...

48. Some of the best requests and results were impromptu -- which suggests that asking just for the hell of it has its own big merit.

49. One more strategy is letting the "askee" come up with a solution. You ask vaguely, "How can I work around this fee?" and he will offer the very solution you wanted. But it's his initiative, not your demand. Makes him more eager to want to help.

50. Also helps to put yourself on a team with the person you're asking. "What are we going to do about this?" as opposed to "How will you fix my problem?"

51. Anyone can ask. You don't need to be a consumer advocate or reporter or public official to get what you want. I never said I was a blogger, never said anything about any publicity producing powers I may have, and people still agreed, gave, complied.

52. The internet is full of resources for finding people at the top and planting your request strategically. A few favorites: The Consumerist's tips, cached email addresses (by messing around on Google), and directories like cogmap.

53. In a year of asking, NO ONE was cruel when turning me down. No one said "How dare you ask! Loser! Mooch! Greedy bitch!" People acted surprised, at most snooty, but no one insulted me or my ancestors. So at the very worst, whether I was rejected by someone kind or condescending, I ended up exactly where I had been before asking.

54. On the other hand, what's wrong with being unpopular? I have stood up for myself more this year, stood up for more others, and demanded respect in ways I never imagined I would or could, until now.

55. Being a good asker might make you sensitive to when other people could be asking, but aren't. This can be valuable information, both for self centered and altruistic purposes.

56. It costs approximately $983 to cater a wedding for approximately 75 people, with organic food, not counting the roast suckling pig. Just food costs, that is. Labor and service are extra.

57. When stomping on an assailant's foot, use your heel, not the ball of the foot.

58. When breaking during a game of pool, lean in and follow through. Don't just snap the cue, thrust it.

59. Don't trust Italian elevators.

60. Berenger's Private Reserve Chardonnay, 2007, tastes like chicken soup, with an afterwhiff of creme brulee.

61. Cwm is a small Welsh valley. That, and pa and mo and el and yean and toea are Scrabble-approved words.

62. My new favorite cheese: Tome à l'ancienne. Quote from Day 298: "Made in Provence, by farmers, in their kitchens. Totally unpasteurized. Totally exquisite. A gooey disk of bliss."

63. A gas station in Maine serves the best cheesesteak sandwiches on the planet.

64. Ikea's return policy sucks.

65. Excel is my friend.

66. Rules are, quite often, askings of their own. Credit card minimum? Exit only? No return without a receipt? Ask, persuade, and very likely you'll end up on the insider's club.

67. Asking is an easy way to make your life a lot easier. Delegate, ask for a raincheck, request an extension, an exception, a shortcut. Optimize, prioritize. In any case, nothing to lose by trying.

68. One approach to simplifying through asking is to group together frequent tasks or multiple frequent purchases and try to get a discount or favor. Buy coffee every day? Ask for a monthly discount. Have a regular dry cleaning errand? Ask for a bulk rate and go more rarely. Save time and money.

69. The savings from mini-requests add up over time. Bargaining every weekend at the farmer's market will pay off financially, and it's good training.

70. Know your BAFTA before setting out in any negotiation.

71. Not everyone gives expecting something in return. It's okay to take, without immediately saying, "How can I repay you?" Maybe you'll pay back later, or simply pay it forward...

72. With some people, you never have to ask -- they give of their own accord. Remember those people. Remember to thank them. And be just as generous with them and others.

73. Speaking of those people, my family and friends are awesome. This is not really a discovery -- just a reminder. Thank you, everyone!!

74. Get over the guilt of asking.

75. There's a big gap between greediness and staking your fair claim. Study it, reflect on it, and be sure to stay on the right side. If it's a gray zone, get advice.

76. To quote one of my readers quoting Spike Lee, do the right thing. Only ask in a setting where you'd like to be asked -- not when the other party is desperate for your services, or where your gain would impoverish or hurt someone else.

77. It's okay to stumble and try again. I sometimes saved money by calling or coming back and renegotiating. Not ideal, not exactly elegant, but it worked out okay.

78. Walking away from a negotiation if you don't get your optimal result is awesome. It works. And, makes you feel like a badass!!

79. Don't be afraid to be enthusiastic when negotiating or asking. If you're aloof, playing it cool, the other party might think you're not impressed and lower the price. But he or she might also assume you're not interested and not invest the energy (or discount) to persuade you.

80. Show the other party what's in it for them -- maybe you'll be a more frequent customer, or refer people, or (a more subtle approach) flatter them into teaching you their skill or showing your their secret. Make it about the giver, not the asker.

81. Use your cell phone or laptop aggressively. Check for coupon codes, online discounts and the like, and apply them on the phone, online or at the cash register.

82. When it doubt, at any transaction, give asking a try. "Do you have any special promotions today?" saved me a bunch, over the year. $2 here and there add up.

83. Frequent asking increases chances of a potential whammy, like my airfare vouchers.

84. Asking for career advice, contacts and networking works the same way: give it a try, make it a habit, and see the dividends add up over time.

85. If you're flexible, you can save money (in the U.S., at least) by shopping late in the day -- farmers markets, estate sales and the like are eager to unload their stuff, so you have more bargaining power.

86. Asking is exhilarating.

87. Asking is contagious.

88. Asking is addictive.
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