I had a situation this week that prompted me to cover this topic in Savvy Sunday News.
Last Monday, I received an email from an acquaintance I met at a conference a few years ago. She listed the names of 5 different authors and asked me to look at each of their websites and give her my feedback.
Now, I consider myself a nice person. I believe I’m a giver and am happy to share information. It’s one of the reasons I write this newsletter and blog post every week; I like to share what I know. But this was a lot to ask.
I receive quite a few of these kinds of requests, and I’m sure you do too. Our topics may be different, but both call upon our time and our expertise, and we don’t always have the time to answer each individual request. How do we handle them? And even more importantly, how do we make sure we aren’t committing similar mistakes? We’ll get to that in a moment.
There are several problems with this particular request. First of all, her request is coming completely out of the blue. She hasn’t built up any social capital with me, i.e., commented on posts, shared or retweeted any of my social offerings, or made any emoticon responses. I haven’t interacted with her at all during the past three years since we met, and it took me a few moments to even remember who she was.
Second, when she sent the author names and asked for my feedback on their websites, she didn’t include the links to each of them. Basically, she was asking me to research each author, find her or his website, go review each site, then provide feedback to her.
That’s what I call a “Big Ask.”
Side note: Before I get into the definition of a Big Ask (although I’m guessing you have a pretty good idea what that means), let me add here that I’m sure she doesn’t realize her faux pas. She is a perfectly lovely human being, and I am not writing this to criticize her in any way whatsoever. I am writing this as a reminder to all of us to be thoughtful and courteous about what we are asking of others. We want to be thought of as professionals, and I am here to make sure we all come across as the savvy and wonderful pros that we are! 🙂
Big Asks are fine to make if you’ve earned them. I remember a quote from Dr. Lois Frankel, the workplace expert, who said, “The best time to build a relationship is before you need it.”
That, my friend, is a sound bite, and a great one at that! To make a Big Ask, you have to earn it.
Now, I know I’ve been guilty of making a “Big ask” or committing some other social infraction in the past, and I may very well do it in the future. It is one way we learn after all, but as I said before, I aim to be quite conscious of this and do my best to avoid these blunders.
How could the above story have gone differently? The woman could have reached out to me before she had a request. She could have just wanted to say, “hello.” Simply commenting socially would have put her on my radar screen, and I likely would have done the same back for her. This would have helped to establish a relationship and some rapport between us. Then when she did come to me to ask for input, she could have included the links to each of the websites making it much easier and more likely that I would respond. This is very simple stuff, and would have made the ask so much more palatable.
Remember how your mom corrected you when you made mistakes as a little kid? Things we completely take for granted now because we do them automatically, such as:
How to eat properly with a knife and fork.
The importance of saying “please” and “thank you.”
Saying “excuse me” when you pass in front of someone.
These simple gestures make life more civilized and pleasant.
Just as there is a proper way to do things in real life, there is also proper etiquette (or netiquette) online, and not doing so can either label you as a newbie, unconscious, very unprofessional.
Here are a few Netiquette tips to do in advance or while making a Big Ask. And, by the way, you can imagine me speaking in your mother’s voice now:
Stay in touch with people you meet. It doesn’t have to be often, but often enough so they remember your name. Say something nice socially. That can build a ton of social capital.
If you want someone to look over your website, review your book, check out your social media channels, or look at anything in particular, send the links. It’s a courtesy. It’s a kind and thoughtful gesture. And besides, if you are asking someone to do something for you, the least you can do is make it easy for them. And yet, it is mind-boggling how often people don’t do this.
If you’re asking someone to review your book on Amazon, send the link to exactly where they should write that review. Don’t hope they do the research to find the right place. Give it to them. In this day and age when information is flowing fast and furiously, it’s too easy for people to just forget about it. Send the exact link. You do the work. Make it easy.
- Play nice.
- Be courteous.
- Ask yourself, “What would I want someone to do for me?”
- Remember the Golden Rule.
These niceties are more than just being nice. They show you are a professional and caring human being. They show you’ve been online long enough to know the challenges and the tedious research that is sometimes necessary. You know how to make it easy for others to say “yes” to you. And, you come across as the Savvy Pro that you are. And that’s what this is all about.
To your success!