Dr. Wayne Baker is a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and faculty director of the Center for Positive Organizations. He is a cofounder and board member of Give and Take, Inc.
The following is an excerpt from his book, “All You Have to Do Is Ask.”
In it, he writes that we often underestimate how willing people are to help us. And we often limit ourselves unnecessarily when we’re turned down for the first time.
In fact, if you ask for help on something complicated, people may actually view you as more competent.
Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Asking for help is something that everyone struggles with. One way to overcome this reluctance is to understand two common beliefs about asking — and then to update these beliefs based on evidence from research.
We underestimate other people’s willingness and ability to help
Imagine you’re on the streets of New York City when you realize you forgot to make a critical phone call. Now whether or not your best friend gets offered a job depends on you providing a reference within the next half hour. You reach into your pocket or purse, pull out your cellphone, and discover the battery’s dead. Your pulse quickens. Now what? How about asking a stranger to borrow a phone? Would you be comfortable doing that? Most people dread the mere thought of approaching strangers, never mind asking for a favor like borrowing a phone. “Too awkward,” you might think to yourself. And plus, what are the chances of someone actually saying yes?
Turns out, much higher than you think. That’s what psychologists discovered in a study conducted at Columbia University in New York City (a place not exactly known for the kindness of strangers). Participants had to approach strangers on the street and simply ask, “Can I use your cellphone to make a call?” They couldn’t elaborate on why they needed it, or invent some kind of sob story. Nevertheless, much to their surprise, many strangers were willing to oblige: On average, it only took two tries to get a New Yorker to lend them a phone.
In variations of the experiment, other participants had to approach strangers and ask them to fill out a questionnaire, or pretend to be lost and ask to be escorted to a nearby building. Once again, they had to ask only two strangers before one would agree to complete the questionnaire.
And it only took an average of 2.3 asks to get a stranger to escort them somewhere. But here’s the really interesting part. Before sending participants out to conduct these experiments, the psychologists had asked them to estimate how many strangers they thought they would have to approach before getting a “yes.” Turns out, their estimates were way off. They predicted that they would have to ask two or three times as many strangers to get one yes than they actually did.
Finally, the psychologists wanted to know what would happen if the request was even …read more
Source:: Business Insider