Ask For What You Want

Posted: August 2, 2010 in It's All Important Stuff

To be able to get what you want or need you have to be willing to “ask for it.”  You have to be willing to ask for something specific – permission, forgiveness, an answer, love, etc. The reality is that few people ask for what they really want.  Most merely ask for what they feel comfortable articulating and it is up to the person dealing with them (e.g., coach, boss, spouse, friend, salesperson) to read between the lines and guess what is going on and how to solve the problem or fill the need. Why is it so damn hard to ask?

What Gets in the Way of Your Articulating What You Want?

The reasons for silence are many:

1. You don’t know what you want

I want to be happy, I want a raise, I want permission to race an Ironman.  Do you really know what you want?

2. You can’t see what is really possible

You can’t picture a reality whereby all involved parties get what they want.  Or, you are limited by your own self-belief.

3. You are afraid of how others will react

If we contemplate asking for something we want we automatically rehearse the impending conversation in our head and role play both sides of the interchange. Our personal and/or relationships get in the way of the art of the possible   The problem is that we are often wrong in our predictions of the future because we imagine both sides of the conversation blinded by a single set of filters and assumptions – our own. Do you tell yourself that you won’t get it, so why bother?

4. “I shouldn’t have to ask”

Many people believe it is demeaning to have to ask for certain things (e.g., permission to train for a race; a raise or promotion at work; help with the housework or the kids at home) and cling to the conviction that these things should simply be offered by the other person. Really?  Is what we want always totally clear to all?

5. Your personality is not “direct”

Somehow it is impolite to phrase things directly as requests or instructions and prefer to allow others the opportunity to “volunteer” their help. “It surely would be fun to race a half-Ironman,” implies the hope that the other person will “get it” and volunteer a plan. Who is responsible for your failing to receive the support or “permission” that you seek?

6. asking for what you want is selfish

Many people believe that their own needs or desires are somehow inferior to, or less important than, the needs of others. They don’t ask for what they need for fear of appearing self-centered.  Your kids are more important and I need to forgo my needs in deference to others.

7. You don’t know how to ask

History repeats itself.  You have asked before, or so  you thought, and didn’t receive what you were seeking.
You may need to consider becoming better at asking

Perhaps if you do the following:

1. Write down what you want

The difference between what people say out loud and what they write down, with regard to what they want, can often be incredibly far apart.

2. Get an outside perspective

Seek others who can help you “talk out” what you really want.

3. Stop hoping for “mind readers”

Your spouse, pastor, coach, or mentor are most likely not mind readers.  Don’t expect it.

4. Re-think the concept of “respect”

It is much more respectful to be clear and accurate with what you want, rather than hinting and expecting something far beyond what you said.

5. Don’t piss them off

Try to find a way to describe what you want in your terms, without being accusatory or suggesting that the other person doesn’t or won’t understand.

The Bottom Line

Being able to ask for what you want, and to ask in an effective way that increases the chances you will get it.  This is a crucial life skill. It requires that you know what you want, are comfortable articulating what you want, and have the communication skills necessary to ask. If you don’t take control to say what you want you will be left at the mercy of others who will likely be more than happy to tell you what you need and what is best for you.

Own what you want and be damn clear about it.

  1. Mary says:

    People are afraid of hearing the “non-sugar-coated” answer…They want the answers they “want” to hear, but not the honest ones!

  2. Sarah says:

    Todd, I REALLY like this blog entry. Keep ’em coming.

  3. […] Ask For What You Want […]

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