Asking for money is tough, whether it’s fundraising for a race you’ve committed to or asking for the raise you know you deserve. And no matter how comfortable you might be with your peers or boss, it’s always at least slightly uncomfortable to ask for money.
The secret? According to a meta-analysis of psychological studies on the topic, it’s being specific.
Psychologists figured they’d go on the ground to figure out the secrets of asking money from those who knew best: panhandlers. They found that asking for a specific amount of money — requesting a non-standard amount of money, for 32 cents as opposed to a spare quarter, for example — is much more likely to lead to a donation. This psychological trick is known as the “pique technique.”
We’ll let them take it away:
The pique technique works by halting the typical mindless refusal script enacted by strangers when asked for help on the wharf, in the hallways, or in a shopping mall. The unique request amount causes targets to pause and take notice of what is being asked and perhaps why it is needed, rather than mindlessly declining to help or refusing to respond altogether. The more mindful target confronted with an unorthodox request amount may take pause and consider the specific need or plight for the individual or charity who has worked out the exact amount needed per willing donor.
In other words, asking for a specific amount reminds the person being asked that the money is going toward a specific need — and disrupts any habits of automatic refusal.
It’s a good bet that this method will shift the odds at least somewhat further in workers’ favor when negotiating with their bosses as well. Ask for a bump from $28,500 a year to $30,000, and that might just read to a boss like a grab at extra cash. But ask for $30,800, and it might help clarify the case that the funds are for a specific need.
Now’s the time for a big caveat: Inverse isn’t aware of any published research specifically on applying the pique technique to salary negotiations. (Scientists, get on it!) While research has shown that the effect is robust across multiple situations, those situations mostly involve sums of money on the order of smaller magnitudes: cents, rather than thousands of dollars. And they target people who might be inclined to offer the person asking less time and attention than an employer would offer someone whose labor they rely on.
All said, the pique technique is known to be highly effective at shifting the odds in any request for money. Trying it out on the boss for a bump in pay can’t hurt.