Answer: Ask for it.
Before we get into how to ask, we should review what we want. Last week I talked about how challenging that is for many of us. We are so bogged down by our past experiences that we can’t even admit we want something, much less ask for it.
For example, my past experiences would have limited what I want from a romantic partner to someone I could screw and watch movies with (I wouldn’t even ask that we like similar movies). I had previously not believed that healthy relationships were possible, so I never said I wanted one nor did I ask how to create one.
I have subsequently explored where my ideas about relationships came from, as well as surrounded myself with positive female role-models. I started to believe that a healthy relationship was possible for me. I then took actions and asked questions that corresponded with that belief. Hence why I’m in a great relationship now.
If you don’t think something is possible, you will not say you want it and you won’t ask for it. You will not fly to Chicago if you don’t believe Chicago exists, and you certainly won’t ask for a plane ticket.
The best way to ask is by making direct requests. A request is, “will you please pass the salt?” Most of us say, “I would like the salt,” hoping someone will pick up on our desires. Or some of us bully people with commands like, “pass the salt.”
A request can be answered one of 3 ways: yes, no or maybe. Yes is pretty clear. No at least let’s us know where we stand. Maybes can swing to yes, no or a negotiated settlement. For example, “Will you give me your ice-cream cone?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Will you give me 3 licks of the cone?”
Most of us avoid making requests because we fear any one of these 3 answers. A yes might force us into the unknown territories of the next step or phase. A no might affirm that we are the losers we think we are. A maybe might leave us in limbo, neither here nor there.
Instead of making direct requests, we mutter plaintive cries into the ether. We say “I wish I could meet someone,” instead of requesting of someone who is in a relationship, “will you share with me how you met your partner” or asking “will you go out with me” of a possible partner.
What if someone doesn’t give us straight answers? We keep asking until we they do. For example:
“Will you help me draw up a business plan?”
“Well I’m not sure if I can do that?”
“What are you not sure about?”
“I’m not sure if I have the time.”
“I would appreciate any time you can give. What amount of time do you have to offer?”
“I can probably give you an hour a week.”
“Can you talk with me every Sunday afternoon at 2PM for that hour?”
“Yes [or other time].”
“Will you help me draw up a business plan” is a lot different than “I would really appreciate if you helped me with my business plan.” The former empowers both the asker and asked, creating specific directives for each. The latter leaves the asker at the mercy of the asked, who may be willing to help, but is not given a framework for how.
Some of our requests will not be answered affirmatively. Let’s say I want a car. I can request that a car dealership give me one for free, but it’s unlikely they will say yes. If this be the case, perhaps I start making different requests of different people. Maybe asking a car expert where’s he thinks the best place to buy is, or a loan officer how to secure a loan to buy one.
With this is mind, here are some practices:
- What do you want? Check out my last week’s post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.
- Are you asking for what you want? Note where you use indirect communication, perhaps stating what you want rather than making specific requests to get it.
- Write out 3 specific requests that will lead to what you want. If you want a raise, write “Will you give me a raise,” not “I want a raise.” If you are not clear on what you want, make a request to find out. Ask a friend, “Will you tell me what you think I should do?”
- List the people you need to make the request to? If you want a raise, it’s probably your boss. If you want to get married, it’s probably your girlfriend. If you want the dishes cleaned, it’s probably your roommate. And so on.
- Make one of those requests to one of those people now.