A crucial part of negotiation is to ask for what you want.
That seems so elementary and yet so frequently people forget or are afraid. Of course, asking does not mean you will receive. But you can be quite sure that not asking means you will not receive.
What’s your favourite birthmark?
A friend, Anne, told me a great story that happened to her recently. She is an actress, she does what I call intimate acting, 1-to-1 acting. No, it’s not what you’re thinking, she works at festivals and corporate functions and is paid to interact with the crowds, as one of the Freshen-Up Girls.
She works in different ways: one time recently, she happened to be using the children’s game with the folded paper – the one you move with your fingers and thumbs and fold back the paper and there’s a question written underneath. She approached a woman who was about 60 years old and who looked a little quiet. But the woman was up for the game and the question she got was “What is your favourite birthmark?”
Interesting question, eh? And she got an interesting response – one on the right cheek of a man’s backside! Who would have expected that from this demure old lady?
My friend pressed: Was it a specific backside that she knew or one she was looking for? One she was looking for. Wow! This sweet old lady was looking for something special!
Anne put her on the spot: Have you ever asked anyone if they had such a birthmark? No, of course not, she was mortified at the thought!
Now this was a crowded event and the Freshen-Up Girl looked around and saw a lot of men and one great big opportunity. She stood on a chair and asked very loudly if there were any guys in the vicinity with a birthmark on their right cheek!
Lo and behold, someone stepped forward! Indeed, a good-looking man about the same age as the woman, as it happened. Anne did the only thing she could do – she made the introduction then left them to themselves!
The happy ending? She received an email from the lady a few months later to say she had found the birthmark she was looking for and the two of them were now a couple.
This is your life we’re talking about!
What a lovely story. But, of course, the sad implication is that the woman took 60 years before she found her birthmark. All because she was too shy to ask. And what if she had never met a Freshen-Up girl who had the guts to make the request for her?
And how many people live their lives without getting what they want because they don’t think or are too frightened to ask? Each one a tragedy.
Or how many people walk out of a deal without getting something that was there for the taking, again because they would not ask?
Your life or your parking spot
And it’s the big things like love and it’s the small things too. Many years ago, another friend of mine, Diana, moved into a beautiful flat in central London. We’re talking really central, here, a lane off a lane that ran between Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square.
Beautiful flat, fantastic location, one problem: there was no parking and she had a gorgeous pink convertible Peugeot 504 that was the love of her life. What to do?
Well, she had a brainwave. There was a hotel on the same street that had underground parking and she thought she could only ask. As it happened, her grandfather had been the architect who had built the hotel. Doesn’t have the same pulling power as being the owner’s daughter ( if you’re reading, Ms Hilton) but it was worth a try.
Unfortunately, the try didn’t work. She told her story and made her request but the management weren’t able to help. Oh well.
Except, about two months later she received an email from the hotel to say that one of the staff parking spots had become vacant and if she was still interested…
She was still interested.
Or your tropical island
And one more story. When Sir Richard Branson fell in love with Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands, he wanted to buy it. Fortunately, it was on the market; unfortunately, at £5m, way outside of his price range back in 1979.
But he did a bit of research and found that its owner, Lord Cobham, was struck for cash, having to pay the death duties on the estate of his father, who had died the previous year.
So Branson offered £100,000. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t accepted. So he made a second attempt – £180,000. This time it was accepted. Not bad considering the £5m asking price!
He asked, he got.
What is it that you want? What is it that you really want?
Make sure you ask.