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I’m a naturally easy going person. I don’t let my highs get too high, or my lows too low. My wife describes me as vanilla, which I think is a compliment (at least that’s how I take it). It takes a lot to get me riled up and angry, and I really don’t like conflict. In fact, my M.O. for many years was conflict avoidance at all costs.
My brother, 2 years younger than me, is the polar opposite. It’s funny because we look almost identical. In fact, I once had an entire conversation with an aunt who thought I was him. “How’s the computer business going?” she asked. I, a teacher, didn’t have the heart to tell her she was mistaken. “Oh, ya know…computers need fixing every day…” (I know very little about computers).
I digress. My brother is the polar opposite of me in that he doesn’t take any crap from anyone. He definitely has a reputation for being comfortable with conflict.
Another thing he’s known for is getting deals. The reason? Because he’s not afraid of a little conflict, he’s not shy about asking for them. It’s a very valuable lesson I’ve learned from him. If you want to get things done and get what you want, you have to be willing to face conflict head-on.
Ask For What You Want
By conflict, I don’t mean losing your marbles or chucking knuckles. I mean those uncomfortable exchanges where you and another person are at odds with one another. Those times where you’re engaged in a struggle, disagreement or argument.
As I said, most of my life I’ve avoided conflict. Aside from the nasty emotional issues that arise down the road when people stuff their feelings and don’t deal with them, it’s also difficult to get what you want from life.
Because most of what we want in life needs to be asked for. And this means that someone may potentially say no.
Ouch. Conflict. I hate it.
But not as much as I used to.
Because I used to treat conflict like someone who had just eaten a can of the Bubonic plague, I was really scared to ask for anything that may have led to conflict.
Ask for a raise? No way.
A promotion? Too scary.
Ask for my cold, undercooked dinner to be taken back, a new meal brought out, and it all given to me for free? Was I nuts? I wasn’t some psycho who was bold enough to think that they should ACTUALLY get what they paid for!!
In reality, I was afraid to broach pretty much any topic that could have even remotely led to conflict.
Don’t Ask? Don’t Have
Jesus was a pretty smart guy.
Whether you follow him as your Lord as I do, or you think he’s just a homeboy from history who had some nice things to say, most people agree that he shared a lot of wisdom.
He said the reason we don’t have, is because we don’t ask.
Now I don’t think he was talking about getting raises or discounts on your cable bill. But the principle is true regardless.
We often don’t get what we want because we don’t ask. And if we do, and someone says no, we give up.
So they said no. That’s no big deal. That’s step one in the conflict process.
It’s not the end. It’s the beginning. It’s all about your mindset.
Them saying no to your request just nudges you a little further down the path of negotiating and getting what you want.
So in the spirit of asking for what you want, let me share 4 times I got what I wanted by asking and not taking no for an answer. I’ll show you how it can be done in a way that’s much easier than you think.
My Hail Damaged Car
A few summers ago, the skies opened up over our house and dropped hail in such biblical proportions that I thought the world was ending. It was nuts.
Not only did it trash our house, garden and my poor kids’ inflatable pool, my precious 2008 Nissan Versa which was parked in the driveway took multiple hits.
What at first glance seemed like a straightforward insurance claim and repair job turned into hours of research into how I could negotiate a better settlement with my insurance company.
The car was a total write-off, but several phone calls and emails later, I walked away with $5500 (about $1000 more than what I would’ve sold it for) and the deed to the car. Not only that, but I was able to get the insurance company to remove the note on the registration that the vehicle had been written-off since it was only cosmetic damage.
Lesson Learned: Overwhelm the other side with information
I did an insane amount of research on the value of vehicles similar to mine. and I had several comparables, with costs for each. I went through the different options that each of these had and priced out from dealers and online how much they were valued at. The pages and pages of data about what my car was worth were invaluable when I negotiated with the insurance company.
I’m sure the first agent I talked to thought I was insane. I knew more about the value of these vehicles than they did. From the moment I opened my mouth they KNEW that I wasn’t the average customer they dealt with.
I was their worst nightmare.
A customer with knowledge.
Before you go in to ask for something, whether it requires you to have a lot of background information or just a little, be sure you are fully informed.
A little knowledge is TONS more than most people have, and it will mark you as someone not to be messed with.
Health Spending Account Charge
Life gets busy, and sometimes deadlines get missed. That’s what happened with a $65 dental bill that I forgot to submit to my Health Benefits Provider.
When I was on the phone describing what I was submitting, the kind lady informed me that I had missed the deadline by one day.
Really?? One day??
“Is there any way you could make an exception?” I politely asked?
She didn’t think so. The plan was agreed to by my employer and I could contact them directly.
So I did.
I politely explained the situation to my benefits coordinator and asked her if there was anything she could do. She said she would look into it for me.
A few days later…jackpot.
Well, not exactly jackpot, but I did get a deposit of $65 into my account.
Lesson Learned: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
During all my interactions with the customer service reps, I was incredibly polite and kind. I brought a cheerful attitude and was not rude or short with anyone.
Frontline employees deal with angry, rude, disrespectful people all day long. They are the first people to tell customers no, and they often bear the brunt of people’s anger.
And for what? They’re just doing their job. Often times they are reading off of a script of what they need to say in different situations.
Not only do they not deserve to be treated with disrespect, most of the time they don’t have the power to override the policies and procedures in place to give you what you want anyway. It’s always important to treat these “first responders” with the dignity and respect they deserve.
And, if you do end up escalating the call to the next level in the chain of command, they’ll be the ones speaking to their superior before you do. Do you want them telling their boss what a tool you are or describing you in polite and respectful terms? I want their boss to already have a positive bias towards me before they ever hear the sound of my voice.
A few months ago a friend of mine told me he was getting a discount on his cable bill for being a student.
“A student?” I thought. “How are you a student?”
He proceeded to tell me that they had considered him a student because he was studying for his Financial Advisor designation.
Fair enough, I thought. If he got a discount, surely I could since my wife is in school to be a psychologist.
I called the company and after a few minutes was told that because the bill was in my name, and my wife was the student, I was not eligible for the discount.
Before losing my mind over this technicality, the kind lady on the other end said that she would give us a similar discount anyways.
Lesson Learned: You need to ask in order to receive
Some companies really do care about their customers. We actually switched from one cable and internet provider to this new one because of customer service. The last company we were with was ATROCIOUS.
Our new provider is great. But I never would’ve known how awesome they are if I hadn’t taken the time to ask.
The Recall Debacle
Towards the end of last summer, I received a letter informing me that my beloved Nissan Versa needed to have some recall maintenance done. There would be no charge for the work, and all I needed to do was to bring it to the dealership.
Because it seemed like it would be no big deal, my wife took the car in and was planning on doing a bit of homework while she waited for it to be finished.
That’s not what happened.
That afternoon I got a call from my wife telling me that the recall parts had to be ordered and they wouldn’t be able to do the work that day.
Kind of annoying, but no big deal.
“When will the parts be in?” I asked.
Because the manufacturer of the part was going out of business, they were back ordered and wouldn’t be in until spring.
Fortunately, Nissan would furnish us with a rental car until the part was in.
With our little Versa parked safely in our garage, we drove the rental as we waited for spring to arrive.
I got a call.
“Sir, your car is ready to have the recall work done. We’ll send someone to pick it up and drive it in and it should be ready in a day.”
It all sounded awesome.
How To Negotiate When It’s Freezing Outside
Now I live north of where you do. I can say that because I pretty much live north of anyone reading this. Way up north.
And January is cold. It’s nasty, with lots of snow and ice and wind. I don’t drive my stout little Versa without winter tires on.
And because I’d parked it in the garage in August and the part wasn’t supposed to be until the spring, I had my summer tires on.
No big deal I thought. I’m sure the dealership wouldn’t mind putting on my tires for me for free. I mean, they’d just spent several THOUSAND dollars on the rental I’d been driving for the last 5 months. A few minutes of work, since they were already on rims, would be nothing.
I was wrong.
When I asked if they could put on my winter tires for me for free, the “acting” manager said she couldn’t. She could put them on, but they’d have to charge me $45.
For real?? Come on.
I asked her if she could reconsider. She said no.
I pointed out that they had already spent thousands, what was a few bucks? She didn’t budge.
We went back and forth for several minutes.
I gradually amped up my frustration level and let it be fully known that I didn’t appreciate how this was being handled. She dug in.
When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to persuade her to see things from my perspective, I asked for the manager.
After a few minutes, she came back on the phone and stated that they would do it for free this time, but next time I would be charged.
“Next time??” I thought to myself. “As if there will be a next time after this gong show.”
Lesson Learned: Escalation is key
Whether dealing with “acting managers” or frontline customer service reps, the most important thing to remember when asking for what you want is to talk to people who have the power to give you what you want.
It seems obvious, but many people miss this.
Be sure you’re talking with the person who can grant your request.
I take this point so seriously that after I’ve spoken to someone for a minute or two and I get the sense that things are not going anywhere, I’ll ask to speak to a manager right away.
Life is too short to waste time talking to people who can’t help you.
I’m not rude or condescending, and I always make sure to tell them that my frustration is not directed at them. I know they’re just doing their job.
But I want to talk to the person who can pull the trigger on something. I want to talk to the person with the power to make something happen. Their bosses boss. Now.
Not someone who will have to call me back next week (and never does).
I’ve found that once I’m talking with the individual who can actually help me out, things go much smoother. And, more often than not, what seemed impossible when dealing with a lower level employee, is totally doable when speaking with a higher level manager or supervisor.
6 Key Steps to Get What You Want
As I’ve become more comfortable asking for and getting what I want, I found there are 6 key steps:
1.8Knowledge is Key – Be sure that you are knowledgeable about your situation. If it’s asking for a raise, be sure you know what you’re worth. If it’s dealing with your insurance company, be sure you have some idea how the system works.
2. The Ask – Politely explain what your concern is and what you would like done about it (the ask). Always remember to CLEARLY ask for what you want. You won’t get it if you don’t, and people can’t read your mind!
3. Use Honey, not Vinegar – Treat all employees in a kind and respectful manner. Even when you get to the later stages of the asking process, always be sure to avoid personal attacks on the people you’re talking with. They will immediately get defensive and shut down. It may feel good at the time, but it will get you nowhere
4. Escalate – if you are getting nowhere with your initial contact, ask to speak with a manager or supervisor. Be sure to explain that your frustration is not directed at the person who you’re talking to and that you really need to speak to someone higher up than them.
5. Use Emotion – Don’t be afraid to get angry. I’m not talking about going off your rocker and tearing the supervisor a new one. No, not all. But don’t be shy about raising your voice a little (not yelling) and letting some stronger language be used (not swearing though; this can shut the conversation down in a hurry). For example, I’ll let my voice get louder and I’ll my words stronger and harder. The tone will go from one of “I’m wanting you to help me” to “I’m really frustrated with how I’m being treated and I’m angry that this is happening”. Many people are uncomfortable with emotion being expressed. This can put them on their heels and help them see things from your perspective.
6. Admit Defeat – Sometimes, it’s just not going to happen. Admitting that you’ve come to the end of the negotiating road is important. You don’t want to flog a dead horse, and you don’t want to be that guy or girl who can’t let it go. Live to fight another day rather than belaboring the conflict.
NOTE: Steps 4 and 5 should most definitely NOT be used this if negotiating for a raise or promotion. If you do, you most likely will find yourself out on your can on the street.
Bringing It Together
As you get more comfortable asking for what you want and begin to feel more at home negotiating your way through conflict, you’ll find that your intuition about when to press a point and when to retreat will grow as well. You’ll learn how to read your opponent just by how they talk and by how they treat you. You’ll be able to understand them and apply the best strategy to help you get what you want.
What I’ve found is that most of the time when I ask, I end up getting at least some of what I was hoping for. It doesn’t always happen, but when I use the techniques I’ve outlined, it often does.
What strategies have you used to get what you want? How have you been difficult when it counted? Share with me in the comments or on Twitter @method_money, Facebook @Method To Your Money, or on Pinterest Method To Your Money