How to Own Your Ask

Have you ever asked for something and heard nothing back?  Are you getting tired of asking and hearing nothing but crickets?  It may be because you are not really asking for what you need. On balance, people like to help one another. Helping someone else actually boosts your own happiness. So, if all this helping is good for us, why do we sometimes not receive what we are asking for?

When you are asking and not receiving a response, take a look at the question you asked.  Are you calling out an action?  Are you giving a deadline?  Is your voice authentic?

If you are unsure about any of these, you are probably not asking specifically for what you need.  This is especially true when we are not feeling confident.  I catch people all the time asking in a vague voice something like, “if you have time to help me, please let me know.”  Other versions of this question look like, “could you please look at this document and give me some feedback? AND “Perhaps I can meet your co-worker one day?” AND the ubiquitous “I would love to meet you for coffee…”

It might seem obvious that these questions go unanswered as they lack either a specific ask or a specific timeframe or both. However, I know that I have asked one of these questions and perhaps you have as well – we are all guilty of not asking for what we need.  In the service of saving everyone’s precious time, I am advocating for you to ask yourself the following questions before you ask anyone for anything.

  1. What are you actually asking for?  (be as clear and concise as possible.)
  2. When do you need it completed? 
  3. Is that time realistic?

Here’s the same coffee question written with specifics and authenticity:

“I’d like to meet for coffee sometime in the next two weeks to pick your brain about this project. Please let me know when you have 30 mins”

Next you need to ensure that the context you are proposing is aligned with your ask. For instance, if you would like to network with someone, coffee would be an appropriate context. However, if you would like an introduction or referral then meeting for coffee is a waste of time.  Here is a quick reference guide to help you determine the context for your ask:

  • I need a Referral= resource=email or LinkedIn
  • I need an Introduction= access=email or LinkedIn
  • I need a Favor= time
  • Directions= information=text
  • Networking or information= exchange of information=Coffee or buy the person lunch
  • Ideas=brainstorming=meeting room
  • Support=listening=face to face
  • Editing=expertise=google docs for review

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