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Would you want others to ask you?

Wouldn't it be nice if...

  • Your boss asked you, "Would you like a 20% raise?"

  • Your mother asked you, "How can I understand you better and be more respectful of what's important to you?"

  • That attractive woman you see coming toward you said, "You look interesting to me. How would you feel about having lunch together?"

  • The company of your dreams contacted you and offered you a position where you could write your own ticket.

  • Many attractive and interesting people are contacting you almost out of the blue and asking if there might be a way you could fit them into your life.

  • Your husband asked you to help him find ways to make you feel safer, as well as more cherished and adored.

Yes, nice but not likely, yet...

Having more great things in your life like these examples are possible, but they're not likely to happen to you by doing nothing. If, however, you're willing to choose courage and become skillful at making requests, then you could be making many of them happen for you.

Problem 1 of 2: the internal problem

Asking your boss for a 20% raise would likely be a choice of courage. You could fear his possible upset. You could fear him saying "no." You will also need to guard against thinking that you already know your boss' response.

One helpful way to think about asking is Byron Katie's idea of "whose business are you in?"

Whether or not to request something from another is your business.

Whether they say "yes," "no," or however they might respond is their business.

Staying in your own business will help you be more powerful in your choices and requests.

Bottom line, if you don't ask, the answer is almost always "no." If you do ask, you can often significantly increase the odds that the answer will be "yes."

Problem 2 of 2: the external problem

How can you ask so, not only do you limit any downside of asking, but you'll maximize the probability of getting that raise or whatever else you ask of others?

Tips for designing good requests

Although it's always the other person who has the final say in whether to say "yes" to your requests, you can anticipate and design your requests so that they'll more likely say "yes."

Tip #1: where are you standing when you make a request?

One reason salespeople aren't often held in high regard and we're often defensive with them is that they seem to use high-pressure tactics and are not so concerned about our interests.

As a life coach for over 35 years, I've had to be a "salesman" over and over again to create and maintain a successful life-coaching practice. I have to get others to decide that they are going to give me $5895 (currently) in exchange for six months of my services.

One important place that I stand when dialoguing with a prospect, in the process of letting them know about my six-month program, is that I am their partner in helping them get enough of the information so they're in the best position to decide whether or not it will serve them best by giving me money in exchange for the benefits of doing my program. With the prospect's alignment, my job is to help them uncover the benefits and possibilities (and costs and risks) of working with me so that they can make the best choice for themselves, which clearly includes the choice to not work with me. I never try to "sell them" or "pressure them."

If fact, my final closing statement reflects this stance, "Is there anything else, John, that you would need to know or need to ask in order for you to decide whether or not it would serve you best to start working with me as partners to make these changes that you would like to have in your life over the next six months?"

Tip #2: for some types of requests, all you need is a good attitude and to show appreciation

Assuming an attitude of friendliness and gratitude, most of us, most of the time are happy to take a minute of our time to give a passerby on the sidewalk information about how to get to the nearest bank.

If a friend is in need of some sympathetic listening because of something they're going through, most of us, most of the time are happy to provide that listening, even honored and grateful for being asked.

Even busy, accomplished people can be happy to take some of their valuable time to share with a novice how and what they've learned that enabled them to achieve what they have.

Or, some people, who may not be so generous with some types of requests, could be quite generous in other areas. For example, with myself, I would typically be viewed as less generous than others might be in giving or loaning money. In contrast, I can be quite generous in "donating" my coaching services in certain circumstances, services which, in a different context, would cost them hundreds of dollars.

How many times have you not asked when the other person would have been very happy if you asked?

Tip #3: create a special context or understanding before making your request

Example #1: in the summer of 1998 in Scottsdale, Arizona, I wanted to ask several friends to arrive at my home at 5:30 AM (to beat the scorching heat that would start as early as 9:00 AM) to help me load a Uhaul van for my move to Hermosa Beach, California. Their only payback would be a few slices of pizza when it was all done. I called eight friends, one by one, introducing my request with the preamble, "I've got a favor to ask. Before I do, I want you to be clear that I want you to say "no" to my request unless you think you could enjoy doing this favor independent of you thinking, 'I should help Dwight out.' Okay?" Seven said "yes" and one said "no." I thanked them all.

It took almost three hours to move everything from my apartment into the van. I could tell that we all had a good time.

Example #2: a scientific study tested several different "pickup lines" that different men in the study used to approach an unknown woman on the street. The one that gathered more "yeses" than any other was, "I feel a little embarrassed about this, but I'd like to meet you." The phrase, "I feel a little embarrassed about this" would likely help a woman feel safer with an unknown man who had just approached her. Given that safety is a big issue for most women, it makes sense that this phrase could help defuse the natural defensiveness that women have with strange men approaching them. By the way, the study also found that any line used by a woman with an unknown man was as effective as any other. Men don't have the safety issue that women do and we men are easy.

Example #3: if you've got a far-out request, acknowledge that upfront and let the person know that you can easily understand a "no." "I've got a request that's quite presumptuous so it's important to me that you say 'no' if it won't work for you, okay? ..."


Example #4: I've invented a one-word context setter that makes it more likely that anything that follows it will be heard in a more favorable way, even including a request. The word is RAFTS. It's a word you're going to have to explain to others because it hasn't made it into the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary yet. It's an acronym for the words, "Reluctant And Frightened To Share." You explain it this way, "If I say to you, 'I have a RAFTS,' it means I'm about to share something with you that I'm nervous about saying so it's taking a bit of courage for me. I hope you can hear it while understanding that my intention in sharing it with you is for us to be more transparent with each other and have a better relationship."


The consistent use of the RAFTS word can work wonders in creating, deepening, and maintaining intimate relationships.

Tip #4: get some information first, before making a request or offer

Example #1: suppose you have some interest in pulling up roots and moving to a new city, but you're concerned your wife would not go for it. Before or instead of broaching the subject directly, you might ask her, "Honey, I have the feeling that you might not be too keen on leaving this home and city and moving to another. I'd never want to suggest something like that unless you might be interested in it also. However, although I might have some ideas about why you might not want to make such a move, I'm curious to understand your thoughts and feelings about doing something like that, okay?" By making your wife feel safe to share with you fully about how she sees things, you'll be in a much better position to make a "partnership request" should you decide to go through with it. See also the Partnership conversation.

Example #2: A more succinct approach would be a more direct question. Let's imagine that you want to ask a friend to invest in your company. Then you might ask, "If I asked you to become an investor in my company, what thoughts come to mind that would lead you to think that it might be better for you to not invest?"

Example #3: maybe you can come at a request sideways as in a "dead sale autopsy" or an "informational interview." I copied the following from an Internet search about informational interviews. It looks good:

  1. Start by Asking for Help: This sounds obvious (and, OK, a little weird), but it’s a proven fact that people love to feel like they are helping others. So, if you literally start by saying, “I’d love your help,” or “I hope you’ll be able to help me out...” your chances of getting a positive response go up significantly.

  2. Be Clear: Ask for something very specific, and make it as easy as possible for the person to say yes. Saying, “I’d love to know more about what you do and how you got your start” is okay, but doesn’t tell someone how much of their time you’re after or what you’re really suggesting. Instead, try something like, “I’d love to take you to a quick coffee so I can hear your perspective on this industry and what it’s like to work at your company. I’ll actually be in your area next week and would be happy to meet you wherever is convenient for you.”

  3. Have a Hook: A great way to increase your chance of landing the interview is to demonstrate why you really want to meet with this person. Do you admire their career path? Do you think the work they’re currently doing at company X stands out as the best? Maybe you have a shared connection and think they would be a great voice of wisdom. Don’t be afraid to share why you are specifically reaching out to this person. The more personalized your ask feels, the greater chance of success you’ll have.

  4. Be Very Considerate: Remember that, in asking for an informational interview, you’re literally asking someone to put their work on hold to help you. Show your contact you understand this by saying, “I can only imagine how busy you must get, so even 15-20 minutes would be so appreciated.”

  5. Make Sure You Don't Seem Like You’re Looking for a Job (Even if You Are): If you sound like you’re really just looking for a job, there’s a good chance this person will push you to HR or the company’s career page. So be sure to make it clear that you really want to talk to them, to learn about their career history and perspective on the job or industry. After you meet and make a great impression is when you can mention the job hunt.

Tip #5: create or arrange to be in a special environment that enriches the chances of a "yes"

The Chutzpah Sales Approach is a vivid example of this method.

Tip #6: take it step by step

If you make smaller requests first, they're then more likely to say "yes" to bigger related requests later. In my coaching practice, I make a smaller request of accepting a gift-coaching session. Then, after the gift session, I make a bigger request to enroll into my six-month, life-changing coaching program. 

Tip #7: make requests to experiment with something 

Here are some examples:

  • "Why don't we experiment with you living at my place for one week and, if it's not better for both of us than it is right now, then I will help you move out and it will have been a fun adventure, okay?"

  • "Why don't we find a way for me to work for you for free for two weeks and, if you're not eager for me to continue with the work, then that won't be any problem for me?"

  • "Why don't we cuddle together for 123 seconds and if it doesn't feel comfortable for you at the end of that time, I'll be happy to move back to my side of the sofa?"

  • "Why don't we put on our gym clothes together, and if you still don't want to go to the gym after we do that, then we'll find another movie to watch."

Tip #8: make use of the power of reciprocation

It's built into our DNA. If we feel like something has given us something, we'll have an inclination or desire to give something back.

If I listen to you first, then you're more likely to listen to me later.

If I attend your party, you may want to attend my party.

If I introduce a prospect to you, you may want to return the favor.

This is a powerful principle, but we need to be careful not to abuse it. If we expect the other person to reciprocate and they don't, that can create an upset for us and also damage our relationship with that person. It's best to get our rewards in the process of giving and if we get more, that icing on the cake.

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