Persistence Matters: Keep Asking

Posted by


“Never give in—never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”  —Winston Churchill

Do you shy away from being persistent because you don’t want to look pushy?

Salespeople learn early that “no” doesn’t always mean “no.” In the world of buyers and sellers, “no” can mean a multitude of things:

   “You haven’t convinced me yet.”

   “Those are great features, but what’s in it for me?”

   “I’m not sure I really know you well enough to trust you.”

   “I don’t really have the authority to make that decision.”

   “I’m too busy right now to actually listen to what you’re saying.”

That sales advice is good for all of us. Think about your own experiences in trying to convince someone or with someone trying to convince you: Someone on the PTA approaches you to help as a volunteer committee chair. You instantly think of the time commitment and say “no.” The person smartly ignores this initial response and persists, saying the principal of the school will be working one on one with this chair because this is a new position and critical to next year’s program. Suddenly your ears perk up. You’d like to get to know the principal and have a say in next year’s program. She seals the deal when she mentions that there will be an opportunity to involve a small group of kids and you can help select them. After all, you do want your child to be part of this great opportunity!

If you’re fortunate enough to have any sales background, you know these things. But if you don’t, maybe, just maybe, you shy away from perseverance because you don’t want to seem “pushy.” But even in the example above, was this recruiter pushy? Or was she simply good at understanding and communicating how this unpaid extra work might actually appeal to you?

In business, we often hit brick walls. Our requests, ideas or recommendations seemingly fall on deaf ears. But when you’re the expert—on anything—it’s vital that you persevere. When you can clearly see a solution because of your unique experience or perspective, you have an obligation to make sure the people who can do something understand. And sometimes you have to ask more than once. It also usually takes careful consideration about what’s in it for the other person.

Perseverance (not pushiness) is often the key to making things happen at work.

Keys to becoming more persistent:

  1. Know what you want (or are trying to accomplish) and why. This could be something as simple as initiating a change in procedures or getting a raise. Or it could be more complicated—that you’re the best candidate for a job with an organization you’ve always wanted to work for.
  2. Consider how to do it. Who are the key players in getting you there? What’s in it for them? (You may be wondering, how could my raise have a benefit to my boss? If a raise keeps you with a company, you’re within industry pay standards and your boss likes your work, there’s definitely a benefit to your boss.)
  3. Stay positive, patient and flexible. (This could take a while.) Among the traits Psychology Today attributes to resilient people is the ability to separate who they are from their temporary setbacks. Don’t stumble at the first “no” and definitely don’t take it personally. Be willing to compromise and be gracious if you get even a portion of what you ask for as you move forward.
  4. Find trusted supporters. Let them know how they can help or encourage you.
  5. Be disciplined. Be consistent.

Persistence at work can have big payoffs. Don’t shy away from asking for what you need or making suggestions for change. And don’t take the first “no” at face value. Carefully consider what you need or want from the other person’s perspective and keep asking, suggesting and mentioning.

taraji p henson janelle monae octavia spencer hidden figures

Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.