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How To Reduce Your Risk of Rejection

Let’s face it: asking for a favor or a raise is a nerve-wracking experience. Here’s several ways to make it less stressful.

How To Reduce Your Risk of Rejection
[Photo: Flickr user purpleapple428]

Rejection is the worst. It was painful when you were a child, and it doesn’t feel any better as an adult.

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But there are ways to minimize your risk of rejection when asking for something you want, says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In a recent article for Psychology Today, Whitbourne offers 10 tips to avoid rejection:

1. Solicit A Person For Something They Can Actually Do

“There’s no point asking someone who is extremely busy to give you a large chunk of time to perform a favor,” Whitbourne writes. Likewise, if you’re looking to publish an article in a business journal, then don’t submit a piece about prison reform in Texas.

Asking for something the other person isn’t able to help you with is a quick path to rejection.

2. Make Your Request Clear

Some people have difficulty asking for what they want. If your ask is vague or too open-ended such as: “I’d like more money,” you’re not being clear about what you’re asking for, Whitbourne says.

3. Don’t Beat Around The Bush

People are busy, so keep your request short and sweet, Whitbourne advises. It’s better to ask for what you want up front and be prepared to answer questions about your request, as opposed to delving into a long, drawn out story with an ask at the end.

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4. Don’t Leave Out Important Details

When asking for a favor, saying: “It won’t take long” is too vague–it doesn’t tell the person whether their help is needed for five minutes or five hours, Whitbourne notes. It’s best to be up front instead of burying important information.

5. Keep It Relevant

Keep requests relevant to your employment. For example, Whitbourne cautions against asking colleagues for charitable donations or a family member to help a friend find a job unless you know that the person has done this in the past.

If in doubt, it’s best to avoid an awkward situation.

6. Be Prepared To Answer Why

When you’re asking for something, be prepared to explain why you’re making the request, particularly if the ask is a big one.

If you’re looking to network with someone whose career path you admire or want to learn more about a particular industry, be honest about what you’re looking for.

7. Choose Your Words–And Body Language–Carefully

Approach the person from a place of respect. Remember if they say yes, then they’re doing you a favor.

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“The more inconvenience involved for the other person, the more you need to keep this in mind,” Whitbourne writes. You don’t want to appear overconfident, but by the same token, you don’t want to look pitiful, either.

8. Don’t Make It Uncomfortable

Be careful not to overshare, Whitbourne says. Include enough detail to make clear what you’re asking for and why, but not too much to make the other person want to bolt.

9. Avoid Careless Mistakes

If you’re asking for something via email, take an extra minute to proofread for errors. If you’re asking several people for favors, avoid sloppy mistakes like misspelling a name or leaving Linda’s name on an email addressed to Kevin.

10. Learn From The Experience

Sometimes rejection is unavoidable, Whitbourne says. In those instances, try to understand why you were rejected and what you could do in the future to keep it from happening again.

For instance, if you asked your manager for a raise right before the company announced it was going to lay off employees, then it’s likely a timing problem.

[h/t Psychology Today]

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About the author

Lindsay LaVine is a Chicago-based business and lifestyle freelance writer who's worked for NBC and CNN. Her work has appeared online in Entrepreneur.com, Reuters.com, Today.com, NBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo, Business Insider, BlogHer.com and Fox Business.

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