Mastering the Art of Asking — No is just the starting point

Ever wondered why some people seem to get what they really want and others don’t? Ever felt that asking for what you want is too daunting or difficult as you expect a refusal? Ever thought a no was the end of your hopes and dreams? Well, Sinead Kaiya, COO Products and Innovation described in her presentation “Mastering the Art of Asking” how to overcome these problems. Lone Aggersbjerg, VP, Chief Operations, SAP Products & Innovations invited her for another interesting talk at Women in Technology@SAP.
A lot of women work very hard and feel they don’t get enough recognition. They wait that someone recognizes their hard work, so they can get what they want without asking for it. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that: a career is not only the result of hard-work and luck, but also shows if you have mastered the art of asking.
Of course, not everybody feels comfortable with asking. Some of us have the natural ability to cajole their opponents into what they want and others feel too timid to ask. But even if asking doesn’t come naturally to you, there is a five-step approach you can easily adapt, so you can manage the art of asking and get what you really want (for further reading see Chris Voss: “Never split the difference. Negotiating as if your life depended on it)

1.Mirror words selectively. Repeat the last one to three words your counterpart back to them. This is one of the quickest ways to establish a connection and make your counterpart feel safe. Show you are listening with a calm voice and a curious tone. Indicate your understanding with questions like “Did I understand you correctly? End your mirroring with silence. A lot of people cannot bear silence, so this will coax your contender into giving you more information

2. Practice tactical empathy. Demonstrate to your counterpart that you see their emotions. Proactively label their fears. Phrases like “It sounds like you are afraid of…” and “It looks like you’re concerned about…” help you in disarming them.

3. Get to a “no.” Being pushed for “yes” makes people defensive; they feel cornered. But saying “no” makes the speaker feel safe, secure and in control, so trigger it. Ask no-oriented questions, like: “Is now a bad time to talk?”

4. Trigger “that’s right.” Convince your counterpart that you understand and value possible concerns and feelings. Trigger a “that’s right” response by summarizing and reaffirming how your counterpart feels and what they want. “So you think I am not ready to take on this challenge at the moment?”

5. Create the illusion of control. The secret to gaining the upper hand in a negotiation is to give the other side the illusion of control. Don’t try to force your opponent to admit that you are right. Ask questions, that begin with “How” and “What”. “How can we move this forward?”
or “What about this doesn’t work for you?

What did I learn from this presentation?
A “no” is not the end of a discussion, it is the starting point of a negotiation. 
Don’t take a rejection personally
Shoot high, aim for your primary goal, don’t settle for a smaller one just because you think you are more likely to get it