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Donna Barstow

If You Don't Ask, the Answer Is Always No

Should we get our love advice from Nora Roberts?

©D Barstow, all rights reserved
Source: ©D Barstow, all rights reserved

Many years ago, soon after I moved to Los Angeles, I was talking to a neighbor about dating, and boys I liked, and whether I should/could make the first move, and she said, "If you don't ask, the answer is always no. "

I couldn't have been more shocked. It was as if she had given me a whole entire chocolate mousse cake, or a job in the studios, or a vintage alexandrite ring.

Like many others in Hollywood, (although nobody else I knew,) she was a Scientologist. They didn't have the bad rap they have now, although it was still considered a cult. And ever since that conversation I've always thought—that is a religion that has something interesting behind it.

I don't remember if I asked the guy out that I was mooning over—in my experience, that's usually a short-lived disaster—but this statement has been my meme ever since. Like many other people, it's hard for me to ask for things, but I've gotten very good at doing it anyway. At least, the non-love things.

I can ask questions of nearly everyone, and call the CEO of any company, and I'm a good complainer on Twitter. In fact, I'm a devotee of Lucy in the Charlie Brown comics.

But just recently, Google gently told me I was wrong, and this piece of fabulous advice is not from Scientology at all. It's from that extremely popular romance novelist, Nora Roberts. The entire passage reads:

“If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place.”

I have never finished a romance novel. Might they have nuggets of truth, just like I thought Scientology did? I see that Roberts has written over 200 books. Now, that's inspiring!

So start asking. Whitbourne has written a good post, called 9 Ways to Ask for and Get What You Want. But if you are not looking for things, but rather hoping to hear the word "yes," I found the post for you, in Copyblogger.

The author gives certain psychological principles, and how to apply them to persuade, not to trick someone. After all, if you offer someone something they secretly want, but didn't know they needed, that's a win-win, right?

Reciprocation — There is an overwhelming urge to repay debts, to do something in return when something is done for us. This deep-seated urge is so strong, noted paleontologist Richard Leaky has said that it is the very essence of what it means to be human.

So give people something for free.

And I loved this comment:

Having been in recruiting for the military, we learned that every 8th question you ask someone will result in a yes answer.

That could be dangerous. Or a lot of fun.

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About the Author

Donna Barstow is a cartoonist, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.