5 Ways to Ask for What You Want

Contributed article in our professional empowerment series. Enjoy! – Kimberly

During a talk I was explaining the spirit of generosity, the final mindset in my book, The Connector’s Advantage. The idea of giving because you can, because you want to, giving because it feels good to you and without expectation of anything in return.  

My passionate please was interrupted when a woman in the audience loudly grumbled, “I’m tired of giving.” She threw her hands up in the air and continued, “No one ever gives back.” I paused quickly trying to determine why this could be happening to her. Then I questioned, “What have you asked for?” With a look of something between surprise and confusion she thought about it for a moment and then, a bit deflated said, “nothing.”

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 significant others.) 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 sounds familiar, choose a strategy to counter your concern. Below are five pressure-free ‘asks’ that snuff the stress out of these situations for you and the person you are asking the favor of.

The “Opt-Out Ask”
When you make this type of request, you will actually provide the reason why they may say no. You want to make ‘no’ as easy as saying yes. After all, yes feels good and no makes me want to avoid you. By making it easy to say ‘no’ you protect the relationship and leave the door open for a ‘yes’ down the road. 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”
The alternative ask presents options of how they can help and those options are typically of equal value to you. This allows them the choice and puts the control in their hands. For example, “Do you prefer to send me a testimonial I can add to my website or is it easier for you to post a recommendation directly on LinkedIn? 

The “Shrinking Ask”
This is similar to an alternative ask except that the second option is typically a smaller request. You can say, “Are you free to meet for lunch next week.  If not, would a phone call be easier for your schedule?” You can even continue to shrink the ask until there is something they are able to say yes to.

The “Convenient Ask”
This type is often used when the person you are asking is higher on the professional ladder. You want to defer to their convivence. You strive to make your ‘ask’ easy to fulfill. The idea is to put the completion of the request on their terms. 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 or do you have a favorite coffee shop?  What time is best for your schedule?”

The “Non-Ask”
Sometimes you can present an opportunity for someone to help without making a direct request. When you share your goals and seek advice or ideas you allow other people to make an offer of help without having to ask.  For example, “Right now I am focused on making The Connector’s Advantage a best-seller.” Often times this disclosure triggers a desire to add value and an offer of assistance follows. If it doesn’t, you can simply add, “Any advice?”

Now that you know the different ways to ask, one rule for the road… 

Come from a place of abundance.
Abundance is one of the most challenging mindsets in my book, , The Connector’s Advantage. Even though you are seeking support to get what you want, always keep in mind ways you can give. Also ask and show interest in their objectives. Abundance leads to creativity and innovative thinking. How can you help the other person accomplish their objectives which will, in turn, reinforce their desire to want to reciprocate and help you. Be enthusiastic about your willingness to provide, without losing sight of your own goals.

The only way to get what you want is to ask for it. Most people want to help you but don’t always know how? Help them help you by making it clear and easy. Keep in mind if they want to say “no,” you want to protect the relationship so let them know it’s okay. 

Next time you are hesitant to ask, remember that feeling you get when you help someone? Consider that in you are enabling someone else to feel that way when you give them the opportunity to do something for you. So go ahead and ask and likely get exactly what you want.


Named by Forbes as one of the Top 25 Networking Experts, Michelle Tillis Lederman is a speaker, trainer, coach, and the author of four books including The Connectors Advantage and the internationally recognized, The 11 Laws of Likability.

Highly sought after for her energetic, engaging, and authentic presentations, Michelle has appeared on stages and media outlets around the globe. She holds a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, placing her in the top 3% of speakers.

As the CEO of Executive Essentials, Michelle’s mission is to help people work better together and advance their individual impact.

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