How To Ask For What You Want

I was explaining The Law of Giving (Law #10 from my book) during one of my recent talks on networking, when a woman in the audience grumbled, “I’m tired of giving.” She threw her hands up in the air and continued, “No one ever gives back.” I instinctively questioned, “Have you ever asked for anything?” With a look of something between surprise and confusion she thought about it for a moment and then, a bit deflated said, “no.”

It is hard to ask for what you want, but you’ll never get it unless you do. I always say, “If you don’t ask, the answer is no. If you do ask, you immediately increase your odds.” We can’t expect others to read our minds and know what we want (and yes, that includes our spouses – How many years of marriage before they can do that?). So let’s talk about how to make ‘the ask’ easy so you can get what you want with the least amount of stress.

First, get clear on your fear. Are you worried you will come off as pushy or annoying? Do you feel guilty that you never did anything for them? Are you worried about jeopardizing the friendship or making them feel uncomfortable?

If any of these sound familiar, choose a strategy to counter your concern. Below are four pressure-free ‘asks’ that snuff the stress out of these situations for you and the person you are asking the favor of.

  • The “Give Them an Out Ask”: When you make this type of request, be sure to give the person an easy way to say ‘no.’ For example, “I am interested in learning more about the day-to-day responsibilities of your job and the company you work for.  Would you be available for an informational interview?  If you are too swamped with work, though, I understand.”
  • The ‘Alternative Ask”: Give the person an alternative like, “I would love to hear more about the project you are working on.  Are you available to talk about it?  If not, maybe you can suggest someone else I can talk to.”  In this approach, you are giving the person options.
  • The “Small Ask”: This is when you ask for something specific and also offer up a ‘smaller version’ of the favor.  You can say, “Are you free to meet for lunch next week.  If not, would a phone call be easier for your schedule?”
  • The “Convenient Ask”: Make your ‘ask’ easy to fulfill.  One way to do this is, “I’d love to set up a time to meet with you next week.  Would it be easier for you if I stopped by your office?  If so, let me know a day and time that work for your schedule.”

The only way to get what you want is to ask for it. Most people want to help you. But if they have to say “no,” you want to protect the relationship and let them know it’s okay. So go ahead and try one of these techniques the next time you ask for something you want.  And let me know how what happens!

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