How to Ask for What You Want

Overcoming the myth of independence and asking for what you want.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #107
  • Excuse #2: I don’t know who to ask. Ok, so ask that. Go to five friends and say, “I need help.” Describe the situation and ask, “who do you think I should ask?”

  • Excuse #3: I don’t want to bother people. It will bother them more if you don’t get your job done and they’re counting on you. Start your question with, “I don’t want to bother you, so if you can’t help, perhaps you can tell me who can.” Then ask your question. In the best case, they’ll help. In the worst case, they’ll send you to someone who can.

  • Excuse #4: I don’t trust they’ll give a good answer. Don’t ask incompetent fools for help. Only ask people who know what they’re doing. I’m happy to borrow someone else’s expertise, but I don’t need to borrow their shortcomings; I have enough of my own.

Ask Politely and Be Willing to Hear “No”

When asking for help, do so politely, confidently, and humbly, and let them know they can refuse your request—that way they won’t feel pressured. Don’t expect them to say “yes,” but don’t expect them not to. “Please sir, may I have some more gruel?” asked Oliver Twist. If a scrawny orphan boy can ask, so can you. If they say “no,” thank them and go ask someone else.

In fact, expect people to say “no.” That way, if they say “no,” they’re just doing what you expect. It makes you feel powerful, like you’re already Emperor of the World. If they say “yes,” then you can be pleasantly surprised. Of course, if they say “yes,” they were violating your expectations, and as Emperor, you may have to execute them as an example. But such are the sacrifices that come with great power.

Asking for Help Makes the Relationship Stronger

We’re trained to think that asking for help is “using up a silver bullet.” Is it? Unless you constantly ask and abuse someone’s generosity, you’re giving someone the gift of doing you a favor. Think of the times you’ve helped someone else. It feels pretty good. The only time it’s unpleasant to ask for something is when someone says “yes” when they mean “no.” That’s why it’s important to let people know they can say “no” in the first place. You don’t want them to feel pressured.

Your relationship will get stronger when the people you ask for help become interested in helping you and you in turn show appreciation and gratitude for their help. Which brings us to the last step, which is sending a hand-written thank you card.

When you want something, ask. Be polite, and be willing to hear “no” for an answer. Don’t hold it against them if they say “no”, and write a hand-written thank you when they say “yes.”

This is Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter. Or join Facebook.com/GetItDoneGuy.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!


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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.