It takes a good amount of energy to muddle through the middle of our day-to-day hustle and bustle. As patience and energy run low, sometimes we can inadvertently miss options right in front of us.
As an example, the other day, I finally sat down to make a few of those nagging phone calls on my to-do list. After I got through to Customer Service, they were able to resolve the issue and then noted that there was a late fee attached to my account because of the mix up.
“Okay,” I said. “What can be done about that?”
“What do you mean?” the associate responded.
“I mean I’ve been a customer for a very long time, and I would prefer to not pay a late fee for this,” I said.
“Of course, ma’am,” he said. “I just needed you to ask for it.”
Ah, there you go: He could do the giving as long as I did the asking.
Now, I’ve been in corporate business for a couple decades, and I’ve been a scrappy entrepreneur for a few years so I’m familiar with the subtle dance of give and get. What I appreciated about this exchange is that he gave me a signal to ask.
This reminded of the time I was in California and went to the fast-food happy place known as In-N-Out. I mentioned it was my first time there and the person behind me in line said, “Hey, you should ask about the secret menu.”
Okay, maybe it wasn’t a well-guarded secret, but it did add a dash of delight to feel that I got a magic password to some special sauce for my fries.
The Bottom Line of Top of this episode is that we may not always get what we want, but we most certainly won’t get what we don’t ask for.
Oh, but asking is awkward.
That’s where science can be helpful. Questions trigger a mental reflex known as “instinctive elaboration.” When you ask a question, it activates the brain to gather intelligence and seek creative problem solving. By asking someone else an open-ended question, it encourages all the brains in the conversation to consider different scenarios and solutions. It breaks up the back-and-forth banter and puts in an intentional pause.
In our go-go days, we tend to operate on autopilot. And in other cases like with my customer service pal, there are scripts and steps that we need to navigate to get beyond door #1.
So the reminder here is to explore where there is multiple choice instead of accepting the first ‘no’ you encounter.
A few minutes of courage in initiating the ask may give a big return to both your competence in the skill and perhaps a few extras along the way.
Questions are so ingrained in communication that it’s easy to underestimate their impact on our brains. Yet science shows they are a great tool for creating connections and exploring what’s possible.
Here are a few examples of ways to ask for a what-else:
• I appreciate that option. Are there are any others?
• Is there any flexibility in this?
• What possibilities do you see?
• Is there something I’m not asking that might be available?
• What would you do in my situation?
Don’t overthink it. An authentic ask, even if it feels clumsy, can potentially unlock new options and – at the very least – give you practice in self-advocacy.
So the next time you find yourself in a situation where you want to explore the more, pause and then ask a question. You just might discover a secret menu.