How to ask for what you want

by Cellobella on Saturday, June 7, 2008

How good are you at asking for what you want?

You can usually tell – because if you are good… you get it.

Generally most people are not that great. With our partners, with our bosses, with our children. We fail to articulate exactly what it is we want or need.

We expect our partners, bosses, children, friends, parents to inately understand what we want. We often give them the barest hints.

Lets take a simple office example.

The Coffee Machine

You and your colleagues want to get a coffee machine for the office. You all hate instant coffee and want to serve your clients decent coffee. You go into your boss’s office with your idea.

“Could we get a coffee machine for the kitchen? We believe it would raise morale and improve our service to our clients.”
“Sounds like a good idea,” says your boss.

Two months later and there is no coffee machine. You feel pissed off. Your boss knows you want a coffee machine and agrees that it would be a good idea. Why hasn’t she acted?

Well she hasn’t “not” bought you a coffee machine. You never talked about who would pay for the machine, who would organise it or when it would be done.

What if you’d said: “We’d like a Saeco Incanta coffee machine for the kitchen. (blah blah blah – insert all the great things about staff morale, client service, increased productivity). Are you willing to buy the office a coffee machine?”
“Yes.”
“When do you think you’d be able to do that?”
“By the end of the financial year.”
“This financial year?”
“Yes.”
“So, in four weeks you will have bought a coffee machine for the office.”
“Yes.”
“Thank you.”

Okay that’s all very nice – but what if your boss says no?

Listen to their reasons. They might be very valid. There might be a company policy against it, they might not have the budget for it. You might see their reasons are fair and resign yourself to instant coffee.

But not today. Today you think its still a great idea and you’re on a mission:

“Do you agree with the principle of the idea?”
“Yes.”
“Will you work with me in finding a way to get the coffee machine?”

And you can take it from here… if it’s a financial block, maybe the staff could contribute or the social club… with your boss’s support you have half a chance of getting what you want… but you need to ask for that support.

The important thing is to ask for exactly what you want, when you want it.

The story of the knife

Knife

Let me tell you a tale from my first pregnancy. I was in the third trimester and starting to feel big and tired. We had a loose rug on the floor of the kitchen which Groover liked but I hated as I continually tripped over it.

“Arghhhh this bloody rug! It’s dangerous! We’ve got to get rid of it!”
“Why don’t you just pick your feet up?” said Groover reasonably.
“You just don’t understand!!!” I shrilled throwing the bread knife I was drying to the ground at his feet. I stomped off to the bedroom and slammed the door – wishing Groover had just put his arms around me.

Instead I heard laughter….”Cello, you HAVE to come back here and see this!”

The knife is point down in the floorboards. It looks very dramatic.

I am very upset. I don’t understand why he can’t see that I’m feeling vulnerable and scared of falling and hurting the baby. That I’m tired and overwrought and what I need is a bit of cosseting.

Well how could he? Had I said any of that to him? No. I expected him to intuitively work out that me complaining about the rug actually meant give me a hug.

Why women (and men) nag

You nag when you don’t articulate what you want, when you want it.

Of the following two requests which do you think will result in more nagging?

“Darling could you take out the rubbish please?”
or
“Darling could you take out the rubbish before dinner please?

This is not rocket science. :)

How to ask for what you want? In two words: be specific.

A “no” is not rejection of you

We often don’t ask because we don’t want the person we’re asking to say no. It’s okay to get a no. Any answer gets you closer to your goal. It helps you understand the other person’s position and possibly other things to take into consideration. A “no” is simply a better understanding of how to get to yes.

Oh and Groover has never let me forget the “knife incident”… How I wish I’d just asked for a hug!

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