Just Ask Nicely

May 16, 2013

Pivotal scene in the seminal 2004 film Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!

You don’t need to watch the whole movie to see what’s happening here (but you know you want to!). Pete’s in love with Rosie. Angelica, his friendly neighborhood bartender, makes him go get her.

There have been many moments at TokBox when I’ve had to remind myself or give my team a little push when we’re not being clear enough about asking for what we want. A deal. Some help. A raise. Like Pete, when we stop at “very unsubtly implying”, I almost always think of Angelica:

“Like my father said when I told him I’d never get that job at a bar: ‘Honey, your odds go up when you file an application.’”

No need to be a dick. Just ask nicely.

As it happens, my team is better than I am at taking my own advice. Last month, one of our partners declined to be included as a success story on our website – not due to objections to the story but because of some timing complications around their own marketing plans. When Lauren told me, I gave up immediately. Sounds like a clear-cut no, let’s cut our losses and go figure out Plan B.

Lauren astutely ignored me and went back in there to ask nicely if there was any way we could make it happen. It was really important to us. They said OK.

Mark Suster writes about how if “you don’t ask, you don’t get” and has a couple of excellent stories like this when it works well. I also have plenty of stories when it doesn’t. The thing about those stories, though, is that the outcome is never that bad – no worse than not asking at all (if you ask nicely…). At least you can rest easy knowing you tried.

(SPOILER ALERT! Pete gets the girl in the end. Didn’t see that coming, eh?)