What is it about asking for things that is so hard for most of us?
People aren’t mind readers. If we don’t ask, it’s very hard for someone else to know what we want. It is rare that someone simply shows up with what we need or want at any given time.
But yet we are reluctant to ask for those things.
Is it because we don’t want to be told “no” or get negative feedback?
I know I don’t love it, but I’ve also learned that feedback (negative or positive—and yes, I like positive better, too) is critical to my learning process and therefore, to my success.
Many years ago I learned that I rarely get good things I don’t ask for. I also learned that while no can be a painful word, it hasn’t killed me yet. And I’ve learned that very often when I ask, the answer is yes. Yes is a good word and brings good things.
But if I don’t ask, I’m not giving anyone the opportunity to say yes. I won’t have to hear no, but I won’t get to hear yes, either.
So, here are three things I’ve learned about asking that have helped me to be a more successful “asker.”
Believe in what you’re asking for. Ask like you know the answer will be yes. Sometimes it won’t be what you expect (either good or bad), but if you ask with confidence and conviction you have a much better chance of getting the answer you want. Think about your request in advance. Write it out and practice delivering it. Being prepared and being thoughtful will boost your confidence and your response rate.
Always be prepared that the answer may not be exactly what you’re looking for. This just gives you an opportunity to reflect on your question and refine it. Perhaps you need to ask for what you need in a different way or maybe you need to ask a different person. You can learn as much from the negative responses as you can from the positive ones—if you’re really listening.
Know what it is you’re asking for. If you aren’t sure what you want, how is the person you’re asking supposed to know? Ask specifically. Open-ended requests can be tough to respond to. Figure out what you want and then ask for it. Are you looking for feedback on a project or skill? Ask for the type of feedback you need? “How am I doing?” is pretty vague. “How clear is this proposal?” is much more direct and specific and will help whomever you are asking to know what it is you’re looking for.
Don’t make it complicated. Get to the point. Be polite, be creative, but be clear. Don’t waste someone’s time by beating around the bush. Practice ahead of time if you need to, so you can ask directly and effectively.
If you don’t really want to know the answer or you’re looking for a “yes man”, don’t ask. If you really want an answer, want help or want feedback, then ask for it. People respond more readily to sincere requests. If you are asking honestly and not putting on a show, you are much more likely to get a response and get feedback that will help you improve and move forward.
So, get out there today and start asking for what you need and want to be successful. These tips will help you not only in your professional life, but also with your personal relationships. Try it and see—and then let me know how it works for you.