The Power of Asking for What You Want, According to a Psychologist , woman talking with megaphone
Everyone has the power to get the things they want, according to Vanessa Bohns, Ph.D., a social psychologist, professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University, and the author of You Have More Inﬂuence Than You Think (Buy It, $20, amazon.com). The trouble is, most people underestimate their abilities in surprising ways, her research shows. Here, Bohns tells how to build conﬁdence and use it effectively.
Why do people tend to sell themselves short?
“My research, along with research by others, shows that we’re underconﬁdent when it comes to socializing with people or trying to inﬂuence them. One reason is that we tend to compare ourselves with the most social people we know of, like Instagram inﬂuencers, so of course we fall short. Another reason is that we’re focused on our own foibles and insecurities, and we think people are paying way more attention to those things than they really are. That makes us feel less conﬁdent about ourselves.
“In fact, the effect we have on others is more positive than we realize. People like us more than we think they do. Psychologist Erica Booth by and her colleagues found that when we have a conversation with a stranger, we walk away from the interaction focusing on all the things we said wrong. We do a postmortem, and we’re very hard on ourselves. But the other person isn’t thinking that way at all. They’re saying to themselves that it was a nice conversation. We end up missing how much the other person liked us and enjoyed the interaction.
“These new ﬁndings are important because there’s a long history of research showing that we overestimate ourselves in all sorts of ways. But when it comes to our inﬂuence over others, we seem to underestimate ourselves.” (Related: How to Overcome Social Anxiety, According to Experts)
You found that people are hesitant to ask for things, which is unfortunate because people are likely to give others what they want. Why the disconnect?
“In psychology, it’s been documented that the negative looms larger than the positive. When something bad happens, we remember it because it’s much more vivid than when something good happens. One rejection weighs on us, and we forget all the times people said yes. Asking becomes associated with rejection.
“The truth is, it’s hard for people to say no to us. It’s uncomfortable. Saying no means coming up with the right words to deny the request, or making an excuse. People often default to saying yes because it’s easier. Also, others generally want to do things for us. It makes them feel good to help us out.”
What should people keep in mind when asking?
“Because we’re underconﬁdent about our inﬂuence and we fear …….