Need Something? Here's How to Ask
Do it skillfully, and you just might get what you need.
A new computer would mean completing that weekly report in half the time. "Surely the boss has noticed my laptop is several years old," you think. "He'll get me a new one soon."
But your boss can't read minds. What's more, odds are your supervisor would prefer a direct request about something that makes your life easier--rather than learning you're suffering in silence while your performance lags.
Does the idea of speaking up inspire dread for fear of rejection or loss of control? Dial down that fear with the following tips. You might get what you need and your boss's respect.
- Define the outcome. It may seem apparent, but identifying what you want is critical in any communication, says Judith Tingley, Ph.D., author of Say What You Mean, Get What You Want (AMACOM, 2006). If you don't, you have a problem with no solution. Examples of concrete requests: a faster laptop, help on your project, a different deadline.
- Recognize negative thinking. Internal voices like to predict the future. "Carol can't have the budget," or "Andy will say no." These voices are born of fear, says Dr. Tingley--perhaps of not knowing what to say, damaging a relationship, or appearing weak. But these thoughts are just thoughts. The future hasn't happened yet. And experts agree that asking for what you want is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Establish goodwill. If it's appropriate, do something thoughtful for the person you intend to approach. You'll be making a deposit in your "relationship account." Where sincere positive feelings exist, there's generally a deeper desire to meet the other person's needs.
- Consider who, how, and when. Think about the person you're approaching. Is she amorning person? Treat her to coffee. Is he a "cut to the chase" type? Skip the background details. You can't compensate for all variables, but accommodating your listener's preferences can get you started on the right foot.
- Present solutions to a problem. "With a newer laptop, I could have that report in earlier, since I seem to be up against the deadline every week." Try to specify "WIIFT"--what's in it for them. "You'd have more time to review it before your session with your boss." You'll increase your chances of hearing "yes."
- Play it out. Role playing may be overkill if you're asking for a new stapler. But using a friend as a sounding board helps you work through how you'll ask for something of greater value to you, like a promotion, more responsibility, or a raise.
- Start small. If you're not used to speaking up, you may not be as effective as you'd like the first timearound. That's OK. Start small (stapler, anyone?) with someone pleasant in a low-risk situation. When you get to the big stuff, you'll have some successes to build on.
- Celebrate. Whether you succeed or not, Dr. Tingley says, feel great: You took a risk when you could have kept lurching forward with business as usual. Tell someone what you did and ask for praise to generate positive reinforcement. Give yourself a pat on the back, too.
- Evaluate yourself. Your perspective is essential to determining how you did. But consider requesting feedback from someone whose communication style you admire. If it went well, file your impressions for future use. If not, consider what you could have done differently, but don't dwell. You'll get 'em next time.
By Stephanie Molnar, a feature writer
for Vitality. To learn more, visit the American
Management Association at www.amanet.org.
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