The Art of the Ask: Learning To Be Vulnerable

"Fear of Rejection" "Courage" "Art of the Ask"
Photo Courtesy of AshtonPal on Flickr

You want to ask that gallery to show your art work.

You want to interview that special person for a blog post.

You want to ask that thought leader to read your book and perhaps get a testimonial but your inner critic is yelling, “Who do you think you are …an artist?”  You might think, “I don’t have a large following, and they might think I’m stupid for asking.”  Or you think they won’t even answer your email request.

We all want to play a bigger game in our life and business, and asking is part of the challenge of being an entrepreneur.  If you listen to your inner critic, you will play small and your dreams won’t materialize.

People say we need to develop thick skin to handle rejection. I don’t agree because developing thick skin is about becoming callous.  I think we approach “The Art of the Ask” with an open mind.

When we live in fear of rejection, we look for proof of rejection – we almost expect it.

In 1980, I became a realtor at a time when it was one of the worst economic times to sell houses.  My friend and realtor Lisa Friedman taught me how to ask for a sale.  Lisa and I teamed up to get listings by asking people who were selling their own homes (FISBOs – for sale by owners) to list their home with us.

We decided to meet at the office on Sunday evenings and find FSBOs in the classified section of the newspaper.  Lisa taught me how to make an ask and then demonstrated how to do it.  When it was my turn, I was so nervous that my hands shook as I dialed the number.  When I did my first ask, the guy on the phone yelled at me.  I hung up the phone and cried.  Now I could have quit right then and said this was too hard or it wasn’t worth it but I didn’t.

I made a few more calls and realized that I could do this.  No one else yelled at me.  In fact, I called one man who had three houses in a fabulous location of town. I asked him if he would mind if I checked back with him in a month.  He said he didn’t mind.  One month later I called him and gave him resources that I thought would be helpful.  Again I asked if he minded if I could check in with him in a month.  I took this as a challenge and a positive sign that it would work.  I knew this was the way to build a relationship no matter what the outcome.  Six months later, he called me and listed all three houses with me.  This was my defining moment in learning “the art of the ask.”

I thought about Hank Aaron.  Hank was willing to bat for home runs even though he struck out.  The more asks I make, the more times I will hear a “yes.”

"Fear of Vulnerability" "The Art of the Ask"
Hank Aaron

If I had let one “no” crush me and formed a belief right then that I was rejected and it was about me – not about the other person and their life – I would have never gotten those three listings and learned this valuable life lesson.  I am not afraid of asking for interviews, help or feedback because the worst thing that can happen is someone says no.  Can I live with that?  Of course because the next person will say yes.

I want you to think back on a time when you took no to mean you were being rejected instead of that person’s boundary around what they were willing to do. 

What did you ask for and what did you make it mean (what lesson)? 

Did it stop you from asking for other things you wanted in life?  Can you see the difference?

My favorite wisdom teacher Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist and author of the Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary, said the following:

“Believing you can be perfect is the fatal imperfection.  Believing you’re invulnerable is the ultimate vulnerability. Being a Warrior doesn’t mean winning or even succeeding. It means risking and failing and risking again, as long as you live.”

This past weekend at Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit 2013 (WDS), one of the speakers, Jia Jiang, an entrepreneur who came from China at age 14 to the U.S. to pursue his dream of entrepreneurship.  Jia talked about his experience of hearing “no” when he did not receive funding for his business venture and his dreams were dashed.  Jia’s story about what happened next is so remarkable that he received a standing ovation from the WDS crowd.  His quest is to go through 100 days of Rejection Therapy, aiming to make 100 crazy requests to get rejected. His goal is to desensitize himself from the pain of rejection and overcome his fear.

Now I want to hear from you.  Do you have a remarkable story to share about asking for something you wanted and getting a yes?

Have you learned to overcome rejection and see the word as kind and loving?

Did you like this post?  Please share it with others.

Related Posts:

How to Overcome Fear and Boost Your Success

Facing Fear Is A Victory for Your Soul

How to Access Your Wise Inner Mentor

  1. Wow! I was so inspired by that video.

    Your post was EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now Sherold. I’ve built up my brand and launched a new website but have been hesitant on marketing myself through larger blogs and media because I’m afraid of being rejected. Moreso I think, well what do I have to offer?

    Thanks for this dose of inspiration! Going to put myself and my blog out there today.

  2. Alexis – yes Jia Jiang was an inspirational speaker and it helps to see this before any of us need to make an ask we are afraid to do. It’s that inner critic that you need to ask to sit down and have a cup of tea while your inner mentor/Higher Self takes over. I hope that you make many more asks and report back that you got some yes!

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