By The Time A Man is 30 He’s Had 500% More Practice Asking

Do you practice asking? Would you be interested in letting me practice with you? See what I did there? I just practiced asking.

If you were sitting across from me, I’m sure I’d get a bit of a WTF look right now. Let me explain…

I think women are behind the proficiency curve of mastering the art of asking. I believe we’ve been behind for a while, and we’re still playing catch-up. If we want to own our part in closing the compensation (note that I didn’t use the word “pay” here) gap, then we need to be better at asking.

So when did we start getting behind at practicing the craft of asking? Look no further than your first boy/girl dance somewhere around 12 or 13 years old.* Cast your mind back to the streamer adorned, disco ball ambiance of your school gym. Are you there?

As I remember it, most of the boys were plastered against the wall on one side of the room, and most of the girls were clumped together giggling on the other. And what’s happening? The boys are trying to stand out, be noticed, trying to pluck up the courage to ask a girl to dance. The girls are waiting, waiting for the guy to ask them to dance.**

Now my awesome lady friends, reading this I’m sure you’re thinking: “No! Wait! I danced by myself. I danced with my friends.” You might have even asked a guy to dance. Think about all the guys you know. How many times have they done the asking vs. how many times you’ve done the asking when it comes to asking you to dance, on a date, for a drink, to the movies, to marry you? Yes, I’ll confess, as bold and self-assured as I am, I followed tradition, and waited for my husband to propose to me.

As a fan of using math to make a point, let me show you my hugely unscientific calculations let me paint the picture of the average American male vs. the average American female asking someone out on a date.

Awesome Person #1: Bob

# Asks per Year: 12 # Years from Age 12-30: 18 Total # Asks: 216

Awesome Person #2: Lucy

# Asks per Year: 2 # Years from Age 12-30: 18 Total # Asks: 36

That’s more than a 500% difference. That’s not factoring in that Bob gets the practice boost (explained below) over the years, so his number is probably even higher. Just by asking someone on a date, men get more practice asking for what they want than women. [Coming soon: Men are better prepared for rejection because they ask more than women.]

Why does this matter in closing the compensation gap? It’s about practice.

When doing something hard, I think we can all agree that if you practice it more, you get better. The better you get, the more confident you get. The more confident you get, the more you do that now a not-so-hard thing. Asking is no different. There’s actually research on the whole idea, documented in Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition.

It’s worth the long read and probably a good idea to dig beyond Wikipedia, but this is an outline of the concepts:

  1. Novice
    • “rigid adherence to taught rules or plans” ask-2341784_640-300x200.jpg
    • no exercise of “discretionary judgment”
  2. Advanced
    • beginner limited “situational perception”
    • all aspects of work treated separately with equal importance
  3. Competent
    • “coping with crowdedness” (multiple activities, accumulation of information)
    • some perception of actions in relation to goals
    • deliberate planning
    • formulates routines
  4. Proficient
    • holistic view of the situation
    • prioritizes importance of aspects
    • “perceives deviations from the normal pattern”
    • employs maxims for guidance, with meanings that adapt to the situation at hand
  5. Expert
    • transcends reliance on rules, guidelines, and maxims
    • “intuitive grasp of situations based on deep, tacit understanding”
    • has “vision of what is possible”
    • uses “analytical approaches” in new situations or in case of problems

Source: Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.

Which leads me back to my original question.

Do you practice asking for what you want? When it comes to your compensation, you should be expert at asking rather than just competent.

Personally, I’m trying to go for Expert.

One more ask before I go. I’m curious to learn if my thinking is even vaguely correct. Many of you have heard me talk about this idea over coffee and have nodded. I need data to back up my theory on practice asking. Would you be willing to answer a couple of simple anonymous questions about your “Asking proficiency”? If you’re up for answering the survey, click here.

And yes, of course, I’ll write up something about how to practice asking. Always here to help!

*For my non-US readers I’ll need you to imagine a little but I’m sure you had a similar experience.

** For my LGBTQ friends – I know there was a WHOLE other dynamic happening. I’d love to understand if my “asking” concept applies here too.


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