Something Else I Learned At Clown School - Ask
This week at clown school we played another ridiculously simple game that was very revealing.
The game was called "give me the ball". One person had the ball and the other people (there were seven of us in total) had to persuade the person who had the ball to give them the ball. When the person who had the ball decided to give the ball to someone, they would signal that they were going to give them the ball with full eye contact and then throw then the ball and the game would continue.
It's a really eye opening exercise. The first thing that was obvious to me was just how much I dislike asking for stuff. I don't like asking for stuff, I feel uncomfortable.
The next thing that became obvious was that there are lots of ways of asking for stuff that are very ineffective. Shouting, moving around frantically, badgering, hounding and pestering. None of those things work. Pretending that you don't want the ball, that doesn't work either. I got someone to give me the ball a couple of times. In some ways this was amazing for me, given how uncomfortable I was asking for the damn thing.
What I think I learned was that if you're going to get the ball, you have to do something before you get the ball. You have to make contact, actually not just contact, but some kind of a connection. When you've made the connection, then you can ask for the ball.
Yes, it is like a kind of courtship. Yes, everybody knows what they're here for. Yes, everybody knows what's going to happen. Still you have to find a way to make that connection before anyone will give you the ball.
Apparently in sales they talk about AIDA – Attention, Interest, Decision, Action. The son of a friend of mine was an only child. His parents divorced and somehow this meant that he was left to play on his own even more of the time. He came up with this genius way of making friend whenever he went to the beach. He had an enormous bag of beach toys (this was when he was about six). A big old string bag filled with beach toys – all manner of things. Buckets, spades, sea horses, rubber rings. All sorts. And when he first hit the beach at the beginning of the day he would drag this enormous bag of beach toys – which was almost bigger than he was – down to near the waterline.
He would struggle with it, and maybe make a bit of noise. If there were any of the other kids who looked in his direction, he would see them and say to them "Hello mate? Do you want to come and play with my toys?" And while they hesitated, he would carry on getting more and more different, exciting, fascinating toys out of the string bag. Sooner or later some of the other kids would forget their shyness and come and join him.
Maybe it was this beach
At the age of six, my friend's son knew about AIDA. He got the other kids' attention, he certainly got their interest. And then – this isn't in the acronym, but it was in his intuitive understanding of what he needed to do – he asked them to join him. And that made their decision to join him and the ultimate action of walking over and starting playing with him so much easier.
This little boy knew it naturally, I needed clown school to remind me – you've got to ask. And there's a courtly set of steps you've got to go through if you want to ask nicely and stand any chance of getting anything. It also reminded me of this.