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How to Ask for Money the Smart Way


Asking for money in any setting is awkward for many folk. But it doesn’t have to be, if you have a plan.

Personal Finance, Money, Beggar, Suit

Asking for money in any setting is awkward for many folk. But it doesn’t have to be, if you have a plan. Let’s review a few situations involving asking for money and some tips to tilt you toward success.

We all make purchases and usually just pay the asking price. If it is a small amount, fine, it’s not worth the effort to do otherwise. But if some mental threshold of a dollar amount is crossed, start shopping around to educate yourself about comparative prices. We are asking, in effect, to pay less money.

Do not look at this negotiation as a zero-sum game, as a competition, but rather as something that you can work with the other person on. “How can we work to gather to get to a deal?” Always try to deal with the most senior person available: the owner, or at least a manager. Negotiating is only possible with someone who has the authority to do so.

Sit together, especially on a couch, if possible. A study in Science showed that negotiations in comfy couches give more leeway than those in a less comfortable posture. Especially if you sit next to each other, not across.

Mirror the other person’s body language to build trust, according to work published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology. Use the other person’s name frequently; it helps. If you get to an impasse, smile, give him or her your phone number and walk away. If the sales person even lets you out of the door, there’s a real possibility he or she will call you up to make a deal.

Asking for money for a charity can also be a challenge. So tap family and friends first, as they tend to be less resistant and you can build confidence. Then approach others. Research has shown that people find it easier to conform and pony up if they know that they are not the first contributor, or that some substantial sum has already been pledged. Saying “It’s for a good cause” may sometimes not be quite true unfortunately, but people expect it, so say it anyway. Just don’t push too hard. Keep smiling and say thanks, either way.

How about negotiating a salary? With most docs now being salaried, this can be critical and it’s a shame that docs get no help in this key area from their training. Your window of opportunity is right after the employment offer is made. If you have done your homework you will know what the range is for your area and specialty. Go online, then discretely ask local people as well.

A Stanford study shows that offering employers are more excited about what your potential at your new job is rather than what your past achievements might have been. So ask for some reasonable number above the first offer based upon what you tell them you might accomplish for your new organization.

Often the hiring person will have some leeway. If not, ask for a signing bonus, or a bigger moving allowance or an earlier review than offered. Or ask an expense allowance, an office re-decoration, something. But don’t be too demanding, just enough to gain respect and feel that your new employer wants to do what it takes to hire you and keep you happy and productive.

When it comes time for that review, it will literally pay to be prepared. If you do a favor for a co-worker, ask them to e-mail an acknowledgement. Bring these to show your boss. And try to get that review on a sunny day. Yes, people really are in a better mood and are more likely to be generous, compared to a gloomy day. If your boss is receptive but hesitant, ask for a smaller pay increase. “Sometimes you’re the most persuasive immediately after someone says no to your first request” says Steve Martin, author of 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Successful.

Money plays many roles in our lives and each of these roles can all be enhanced if we first acknowledge our personal and cultural discomfort with asking for money, regardless of the venue. But, if you have planned ahead a bit, you have already made a leg up, eased the anxiety and increased your chance of success.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice