Lately, there’s been a lot of chatter around “asking,“ from musician Amanda Palmer’s controversial TED talk last year on “The Art of Asking,“ to the recently released book by Michael Alden, “Ask More, Get More.“ Not to mention the countless pixels of digital ink that have been spilled on gender differences when it comes to asking for what you want.
You might even go so far as to divide the world into two types of people - those who are comfortable asking for things and those who are not. And it seems that non-askers are endlessly fascinated by askers, sometimes seeking out their tips and tricks, and other times judging them for their shameless self-promotion and grasping ways.
Personally, I’ve always been an asker. There are many stories I could share, but perhaps all I need to tell you is that I once gave out my business card while I was a patient in the emergency room. From the gurney.
Which brings me to the crux of the matter: Can non-askers become askers?
Based on my decades in leadership development and as a professional coach, I believe the answer is a resounding yes. But many of the commonly offered techniques that are taught to non-askers fail to address the underlying issue, which is the asker’s authority.
Merriam-Webster defines authority as “the power or right to direct or control someone or something.“ So what gives us that power? What gives us the right to ask?
YOU HAVE INFLUENCE OVER OTHERS: This is probably the form of authority with which we are the most familiar. Legitimate authority is derived from our official position or title, and it’s what gives a police officer the right to ask you to move your car, or your mom the power to command your appearance at Sunday dinner. It’s important to remember that this type of authority usually carries the ability to reward and punish (or withhold rewards).
Non-askers can begin to ground themselves in their authority to ask by reviewing their legitimate role in a situation, along with their ability to give and take away.