Asking Several People at Once, Nicely

Making limited offers and requests to several people at once can be tricky. Here's how to navigate it to first-come, first-served, without upsetting those further back in line.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #362

When life is uncertain, it can be hard to know exactly how to involve other people. It's an exciting day! Intern MG has managed to acquire an extra preview code for the latest massively multiplayer online game, My Little Pony: The Cutie Mark of Power. The goal is to find the Cutie Mark of Power which will let ... No. I'm not going to give away any spoilers. The code expires in just three hours, so MG needs to act fast. But two of his bros, Zach and Connor, are secretly Bronies. He's got a conundrum.Asking Several People at Once, Nicely

MG wants to offer the preview code to Zach, who loves Rainbow Dash so much that he uses her name as his email password (we're not supposed to know that). This game would be life-changing for Zach. MG texted him, but he hasn't replied. He's busy arranging Hell Week for his frat's pledge class. Should MG just call Connor immediately?

This is a tricky situation. With MG, it's rainbow ponies. Or it could be that last-minute ticket you have to an atonal 20th-century opera performed entirely in Swahili. Or it could be a spare Red Sox ticket complete with a complementary football inflation pump, signed by Tom Brady. Our first choice friend isn't immediately available, and we don't want to risk not having time to invite our second choice friend (we love all our friends equally, but we love some more equally than others). And, of course, we don't want to tell our second choice friend, "if our first choice friend can't make it, you can have the ticket." That could hurt her, his, their, or zirs feelings.

How do we navigate this tricky situation?>

Don't Leave Specifics in Your Message

When you leave voicemail or email, give enough information in your message so the recipient can take action without needing to ask any more questions. I discuss that in my episode about leaving good voicemail. This is one case, however, where you don't want to leave details.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.