Getting what you want out of life isn’t always easy. You can spend weeks, months or even years working on your goals. That’s a lot of effort and planning just to get from point A to point B. Worse still are the people who do nothing but wait around hoping that what they want will just appear in front of them.
There’s a better way to get what you want, just ask for it. The old adage that the fastest route between two points is a straight line applies here. Asking for what you want is easier and works faster than any plan you could come up with.
My Story of Asking for What I Want
Sometimes asking for what you want can really surprise you. After I graduated college, I got a full time job and began my career. About a year into the job I had an opportunity to travel through Southeast Asia. This travel was not for work, it would have been a personal trip for 30 days! I was in a bind. Traveling through Asia had always been a dream of mine. However, I knew I couldn’t just quit the job I tried so hard to obtain.
I tried to think through my situation. I realize that most jobs in America only allow two weeks of vacation per year. In fact, I don’t think I had seen anyone where I worked take any time off whatsoever. But I wanted both a job and travel so I racked my brain figuring out a plan to make it work. I realized I had only one option: to ask for what I want.
I had no doubt in my mind that I would get a “no”. No one expects their employer to allow that much time off just to travel. But to my surprise, I got the OK. The only stipulation was that I would be put into a different position when I got back. I was completely satisfied with the arrangement. A few months later, I was in a plane half way over the Pacific on my way to Thailand. And the best part was, I felt reassured that I had a position when I got back.
The biggest reason most people don’t try asking for what they want is fear. They fear rejection or they fear that they’ll ask in the wrong way or say something stupid. Asking someone for something you want can be a scary thing to do, but it’s a lot better than waiting for it to just happen. And with a few tips, you can make your experience a lot better.
Here are a handful of things I did to help get the response I was looking for.
- Be Assertive
There’s something about combining confidence with control that gets attention. People really respond positively to it. You’re probably going to be nervous asking, but that’s normal. Relax as best as you can and be confident. If you ask in an assertive, polite way, you’re more likely to get what you want.
- Know what you want
The more specific a request you make, the easier it will be for both you and the person you’re asking. If you appear indecisive and unsure in what you want, your request will come off as weak. Part of success in asking for what you want is showing the person how much you really want it. Show this by being specific in what you want. Plus, being specific is just polite to the person you’re asking in case they have to work around your request.
- Be Flexible
Being specific in what you want is important, but so is being flexible. When I asked for my time off to travel, I had to accept the different position when I came back. If I had been rigid in my demands, I wouldn’t have succeeded. It wasn’t ideal for me, but it was acceptable in order to get what I wanted. If you’re prepared to compromise, you’ll succeed too.
- Be prepared for a “no”
Asking for what you want isn’t a silver bullet for success. Oftentimes, you’ll receive a “no” and you have to be prepared for that. Years after my travels through Southeast Asia, I thought I would ask for similar time off from a new employer. I asked for a month off to travel and got a “no”. However, they did spend several days in consideration so I think it was pretty close to being accepted. I had to settle for a regular two week trip instead. I didn’t get what I wanted, but nothing bad happened to me by asking.
- People want to help you
Before you ask for what you want, realize that people want to help you. It is rare for someone to respond negatively to a well-thought out polite request. Most people get a good feeling by helping another person out. Plus, they’ll probably remember a time when they were in a similar position. If you keep this in mind, you’ll be more confident. And that will get you one step closer to getting that “yes”.
Remember, if you don’t ask you won’t receive.
Written on 1/13/2011 by Steve Bloom. Photo Credit: danielle_blue