The Power of Asking: How a Parking Lot Became My Negotiation Playground

On a spring day in 2012, I pulled into a parking lot in San Francisco, rolled down my window, and handed the attendant a $10 bill.

The sign said “Parking all day $20” and the lot was empty. It was right next to the restaurant where the team was meeting for lunch, but there was no way parking there was worth that amount at that time.

I had just finished reading the book “Women Don’t Ask” and was on fire with my new ability to negotiate.

That book had a real impact on me (beyond my parking strategy). I realized that some people go through the world believing that everything is negotiable, and some people that nothing is negotiable. And a lot of the time, I was in the latter category.

Since then, I have been alert to patterns of asking in myself and others.

I notice that when people have a wish or a want, they express it to a sympathetic listener who doesn’t have the power to make it happen, but may never ask the person who does.

Why not? 

1. They can’t objectively justify it
2. It might inconvenience someone else
3. The conversation will be uncomfortable

…but what I believe lies underneath these concerns is the mindset that we don’t deserve what we want.

I still find myself in this trap. When I start forming a wish or a want in my head, or hear myself speaking about it to other people, I have to actively remind myself: what would it take to ask for this?

There is something so fulfilling about asking for what you want, even a sense of freedom, which is why I still remember that parking lot years ago.

If you are wondering, the attendant grudgingly took the $10 bill and waved me in to the lot.  Next lesson: you don’t have to make everybody happy. 

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