Smart Girls Who Do Stupid Things


It Can’t Hurt to Ask…

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Lauren’s excellent blog post (referenced in the social network map post) reminded me of this blog I recently started reading and the host of questions that flare up at the intersection where gender, entitlement, courtesy and propriety collide. On the Daily Asker, the blogger, inspired by the book Women Don’t Ask, went on a year-long mission to discover the power and pitfalls of asking for things. Every day for a year she asked for something that she would not normally have asked for, a favor, a discount, a free sample, etc, and documented the results. Over 70% of the time, she got what she wanted.

Inspired by the blog, and the radical idea that the worst thing that happens is I get told “no,” I asked for a first time customer discount at a new hair salon. I told them that I was excited to try their salon, and had read great reviews, but the cost slightly exceeded my price point.¬† I was told they had never done that before, but hey, why not. I saved myself $45. Who would have thought!

Describing the blog–>inspiration–>asking–>salon success story to my friend Jessie, I was struck by her secondary reaction (the first being, of course, props on my cheap hair cut.) Her second reaction was along the lines of “be careful not to become one of those pushy, demand-y people that customer service workers hate.” I second her sentiment completely (I’ve worked food service and retail, and I hate those people), but I do wonder if I would ever get that reaction from a male friend. On the Daily Asker’s list of 88 things she learned is this one-two punch:

26. Don’t worry about exploiting the other side by asking. He or she can decline.
27. But remember there are cases where you have more power, status or income, and the other side feels compelled to comply.

I love this sequence of observations¬† because I think that women, in general, worry a lot more about the imposition of asking and the feelings of the “askee” than men (vast generalization, I know)*. For example, if I ask a salesperson for a discount, I might make that salesperson uncomfortable by putting them in the position of having to say no. Is their potential discomfort my responsibility? Should I not ask because of that potential? Do men recognize that potential as much as women? If they do, do they proceed more often because they believe their need/desire/request trumps the askee’s discomfort? If they don’t, what broader implication does that have on social interactions across gender lines (or other relationships fraught with power dynamics?)

*Sara (a Texan) pointed out that the willing-to-ask factor is also tremendously different from region to region. A conversation for another day.

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