Some attorneys, especially women, think that asking for business is right up there with being a really bad person.  The Yellow Paper Series at  published a recent article which followed a research project to find out if men were better at asking for business than women.  Guess what they found out.  They are.

Bottom line was that women felt that building relationships was a goal in itself while men felt that having a relationship was to produce business.  The men were thus producing more actual business than the women.  The study found that  men and women see the importance of networking and do about the same amount.  The difference is striking, however, in that the men produce results in the form of business at a 8/10 ration while the women did it at a ratio of 2/10.

When questioned closely in the study, it was found that the women found that they had guilt about asking for business from the relationship that they had developed.  One woman said “I almost did. I almost asked for business, but I felt guilty like I had been using him all along just to get business.  It caused me too much stress, so I didn’t ask.”

Not surprising the men didn’t have the same concerns.  If they didn’t ask for business it was because of business concerns, such as inability to provide business in return.  Most illuminating was the find that women perceived the ask as selfish whereas the men saw it as something that could benefit both parties.  So there seems to be a a difference in the idea of reciprocity between genders.  How interesting!

iStock_000014119164_ExtraSmallAnother conclusion was that women felt like they were asking while the men felt like they were telling the other party what they could do for them.  Women were uncomfortable asking and possibly didn’t lacked confidence in being able to provide help to the other party.

So what can be done about this disparity?  As always, first women need to recognize that asking for what you want is not something that you should feel guilty about.  It is a business tradition.  Carefully looking at the concept that one shouldn’t “use” another person for self gain, seems to open up a lot of questions as to where that comes from.  Are women less worthy of getting what they need and want than men?  If so, where did that come from? Are men perpetrating this or are women just buying how they think they should act?

There is no doubt that many women feel uncomfortable in an assertive mode.  They don’t want to be called “bossy” or that other “b” word.  Asking for business certainly involves being assertive.  Another way to look at this is that women don’t give the other person the opportunity to say yes or no.  They are so concerned with what the other person may think about them, that they don’t allow the other person to be a grown up and respond.  How screwy is that?

Your TASK for this coming week is to ask one person who you already have a relationship with for business or support.  This is a good one for both men and women.  See how you feel, see what the response is and finally, see what you get……what fun!