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Do This To Get What You Want

Written by: Dr. Beverly Wertheimer, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


One of my favorite sayings is, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Of course, asking for what I want doesn’t ensure I’ll get it, but I’m guaranteed zero chance of success if I don’t try. My kids like to say, “Mom doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” and while my darlings exaggerate a bit, a big reason I seem to get what I want is because of this unembellished mindset: I believe that most people are basically wonderful and don’t mind helping one another.

Put Down Your Dukes

Little case in point; I recently went to the post office in search of stamps to adhere to invitations for a party my daughter was throwing. When the clerk pulled out a sheet of American flag stamps, I politely asked him if he had anything else (nothing against Old Glory, but I knew my daughter would prefer something cuter for her soiree invitations). The clerk answered me flatly, “I have flags.” I pressed ahead with, “You don’t by chance have any stamps with flowers?” My query was met with an unexpected rhetorical strike: “Are you accusing me of lying?” This was not the customary reaction of someone having a good day. Of course, I could have put up my verbal dukes and insisted on flowery stamps or righteously demanded to speak to a manager, but this was an opportunity to connect with a fellow human being.

Kindness is a Shortcut

So, I empathized. I told myself he’s probably had a long day, or something is really bugging him. I leaned in a little closer, made direct eye contact, and said sincerely in a soft, unfeigned tone, “No, no. I’m really sorry. I guess it could have come across that way. It would be awful for someone to accuse you of lying when you’re just trying to do your job.” As he looked at me and paused, I held my breath. But then he opened his drawer, shifted some contents around, and a few seconds later lay a new sheet of stamps on the counter. “I don’t have flowers. I have hearts.” Hearts! I felt my own heart leap. “Those are exactly what I need. Thank you. I really appreciate you.” And I meant it. He held my glance, and smiling from the corner of his eyes, he said, “You’re welcome.” This was the most effortless path. I walked out with what I wanted, avoiding a drawn-out contretemps that would have left two people feeling upset and self-righteous.

Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt

You see, “asking” is not just a question, it’s an art form – and requires just the right stroke of savoir-faire. The “don’t ask, don’t get” mantra is not about toadying up to someone in a sycophantic, smooth-talking manner. Nor is it about manipulating or hoodwinking someone into giving you what you want. It’s about being assertive while remaining gentle and kind. Self-improvement guru Dale Carnegie who authored the classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, studied many world leaders throughout his career and discovered that the most persuasive ones are gentle giants. They are curious rather than dogmatic, and they lavish praise upon their employees rather than castigate them for transgressions or itemize their shortcomings. They are simultaneously authoritative and benign. It's been demonstrated that when we imbue someone with characteristics that we want them to have, they are likely to rise to the occasion. Conversely, if we expect the worst from someone…well, let’s not be surprised when that’s what we get.

Win Win

A fundamental rule of persuasion is to make sure the person you’re asking something from also gets a win. Say, for example, I’m applying for a job. Does the boss care how the position benefits me, what makes it a perfect fit in this cycle of my life, or how much I love the neighborhood? Not particularly. Hiring managers typically care more about what you can provide for them. So, on that job interview, Carnegie advised, “Talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

Fellow Feeling

As he explained, we hominids are creatures of emotion who must appeal to others viscerally and not just through logic. When I was a TV broadcast journalist in Florida, my news director taught me this lesson early on: “Don’t let too many facts spoil a good story.” Rather than offer a compendium of logical reasons why someone should do something, try appealing to their emotional brain. Ignite their limbic region by smiling, maintaining good eye contact, listening attentively, using their lexicon, and reflecting what they say. This demonstrates in myriad ways that you are genuinely interested in them and not just out for your own gain. In Carnegie’s words, “To be interesting, be interested.”

Sweet Persuasion

If you haven’t noticed, demanding what you want almost always fails. Persuasion is not accomplished with a megaphone; it’s a discreet manner of speech, vocal tone, body language, and receptiveness that create a current of connectivity. It’s this emotional connection that triggers a rush of brain-centered neurochemicals, notably oxytocin, the “love hormone,” and connects people on a deeper, more intense emotional level. Carnegie characterized his secret of success as “the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” This is the difference between a slippery salesperson and a caring human being authentically relating to another – at home, at work, or at the post office.

To some, the “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” philosophy may sound a bit self-serving; but done right, it's about confidently and assertively asking for what you want with kindness, compassion, and empathy, so both the giver and the getter feel good. The seemingly esoteric art of persuasion, of getting what you want, starts with the simple act of giving.

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Dr. Beverly Wertheimer, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

As a former TV journalist working at ABC and NBC stations, CNN Turner Entertainment, and Entertainment Tonight, Beverly Wertheimer thrives on creating warm and immediate connections with others. In her current roles as CEO of BeWorthy life coaching, assoc. child and adolescent psychotherapist, and adjunct professor of psychology, Dr. Wertheimer is devoted to uplifting others and helping them solve even the most vexing problems. Her mission: Help people get whatever they want out of life...and then enjoy it!



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