Do any of these conversations sound familiar?
- A supervisor in your organization approaches you and says, “I don’t get it. My team is bright and has the technical skills needed to do their jobs. We’ve invested so much developing them, but they aren’t meeting objectives. How can we get them to stop duplicating efforts and waiting around for permission? What do we need to do for them take initiative to get the job done?”
- A disappointed employee comes to you and says, “This is the third promotion that has gone to someone less qualified. I don’t understand why I’m being overlooked. What should I do?”
- You are talking to your friend and hear yourself say, “I’m being left out of important conversations and don’t have the resources needed to do my job. How do I get heard at work?”
If so, the solution may lie in learning how to make better requests that others will support. In a 2016 survey of almost 1,200 professionals in a wide variety of fields, 96 percent said they could have improved their results by asking for a little bit more or taking more of a risk.
What prevents people from requesting what they really want? Many fear that asking questions of someone with a higher status or authority may cause repercussions or a loss of respect. Also, there is a reluctance to ask when people perceive a difference in age; education; life experiences, including upbringing; or wealth. Research shows that women restrain themselves from asking more often than their male peers, especially when the term “negotiation” is used.
It’s Okay to Be a Smart Ask!
People who make bold requests improve their chances of being heard. By asking powerful questions, you improve your ability to influence and show confidence, no matter what the subject. Use these reminders when encouraging others to make requests for what they need.
Be polite. More than 30 percent of people in the 2016 survey reported they are more likely to decline a request if the person is inconsiderate or has bad manners. Being nice is sign of strength, not weakness.
Make your requests to people who can make decisions. Look for people who have the ability to say “yes.” The powerless only have the authority to say “no.”
Stay curious. Live in the question. Even when you are surprised by a situation, you can ask questions like, “What’s the best way for us to discuss this issue?” or, “If you were me, what would you be asking?”
Allow time for people to consider your request. You may have thought about asking for a while, but your request could be news to the other person. They may need to consider factors you aren’t aware of or determine how they could grant your decision. Give people time.
Receive an answer. Your goal in asking is to obtain information and a reply, even if the response is “no” or “not yet.” With an answer to your request, you can choose to adjust, adapt and move ahead. You save time, resources and mental effort. Most importantly, you stop wondering what could be if only you had the courage to ask.
Build trust. One-third of survey respondents reported they would deny a request if they don’t trust or respect the other person. Asking gives you the opportunity to listen and establish trust. When you request what you want up front, people stop searching for your hidden agenda.
Be prepared to experience shockingly good outcomes. It’s not unusual for people to ask for something they feel is outrageous and then report that the person on the receiving end wasn’t shocked by the request. Some will be delighted to help or wonder why the request wasn’t made sooner. Survey results show one of the toughest requests is a raise. Yet, more than half of the people who asked for a raise (51 percent) received it – and 9 percent of those people actually received more than they asked for.
Feel the fear. Stretch outside your comfort zone with your request. Ask for a little more than you think you deserve. Don’t hold yourself back from asking because you wouldn’t grant the request.
It will help others. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents were more comfortable asking on behalf of someone else (such as a child, employee, client or someone in their care). If you are stalling to make a request, mentally reframe your reason to ask. Ask on behalf of someone who will also benefit. For example, if you speak up at an intimidating meeting, the answer you receive often helps other members of the group.
There is magic in asking for what you want. The most remarkable result is how people feel after they ask. When you feel the fear and ask anyway, you gain confidence and a greater sense of self-worth. Even better, people who ask outrageously receive outrageous results beyond work. When they make asking a habit, they experience benefits in all areas of their lives.